March 1, 2001
Maria Newman, the youngest child of the late, great film composer Alfred Newman, is a musician with a mission. "As my father's movies became relegated to late-night television, I felt I wanted to do something to help preserve his legacy," said the violinist and esteemed contemporary classical composer. "I wanted to bring his music to the concert stage."
Newman, 39, began by arranging some of his work for the Los Angeles Viklarbo Chamber Ensemble, for whom she is composer-in-residence. And she was enthusiastic when Los Angeles Jewish Symphony artistic director Noreen Green suggested a salute to her father at the "Cinema Judaica II" concert March 4.
"Alfred Newman was one of the greatest contributors to the Hollywood music industry, yet hardly anyone was celebrating the centennial of his birth," Green told The Journal of why she scheduled the concert.
Newman, who used to tap out children's tunes with Alfred on the family's Steinway, said she worshipped her father. Though the film composer could appear gruff to some, he was tender with his youngest child, allowing her to scribble all over his scores and nodding as she prattled, "I want to write music, too."
"She has talent," Maria overheard him telling her mother, Martha, a former Goldwyn Girl.
But Newman, a heavy smoker, was ill with emphysema all of Maria's life; several days after she saw him faint one night in 1970, he was taken to the hospital and never returned. When Martha told her that her father had died, the child let out a bloodcurdling scream. She was only 8 years old. Martha, nevertheless, insisted that Maria continue her violin lessons: "[My mother] looked for my father's musical gene in all her children," said Maria, who went on to attend the prestigious Eastman School of Music and Yale University.
Newman kept her own compositions a secret until the late 1980s. Because she hailed from a famous musical family, she didn't want to be accused of nepotism, so she composed under a pseudonym. She wanted to be taken on her own merits. "That's why I didn't go into film music," she said. At "Cinema Judaica II," Maria will perform as guest concert master on Alfred's scores from the Jewish-themed films, "The Diary of Anne Frank," "Gentleman's Agreement" and "David and Bathsheba." The Viklarbo ensemble will perform her arrangements of Alfred's works. "I hope the concert will revive an interest in my father's music," she said.