Omaha Conservatory of Music to Perform “Songs for Soldiers”


July 23rd, 2014

Omaha, NE — Sounds from the Silver Screen and poetry from Mississippi converge on Omaha for a world premiere.

Maria Newman

Maria Newman

This Saturday students from the Omaha Conservatory of Music will have a rare opportunity to give the world premiere a piece of music: Maria Newman’s “Songs for Soldiers.” Newman is the daughter of the famed film composer Alfred Newman, who won more Academy Awards than any other composer. Several uncles, brothers, and cousins also write film music. She says she is proud of her legacy, but that there is a lot to live up to.

“In love with and intimidated by my family,” she said. “They’re all brilliant, and they’re all mostly in commercial music.”

So Maria went her own way, focusing on performing and teaching concert music. She plays violin and viola and conducts the Malibu Coast Chamber Orchestra. She also frequently composes, sometimes dabbling in film music.

Newman’s “Songs for Soldiers” is a suite for string orchestra written especially for the Omaha Conservatory. In this case, her inspiration came from another family member.

“My grandmother was the poet laureate of Mississippi, and she wrote some very inspirational poems, and they were marvelous in the sense that they would tell about life, they would teach about life,” Newman said.

Newman says that the words themselves were inspirational, but she took them one step further.

“I took these poems and wrote them syllabically, with words, and then took the words away, so they become a set of songs without words,” she said.

This approach, Newman says, creates both highly melodic and very rhythmic music. It also leads to a sense of unity, in that the poetry helped her create musical vignettes, small stories that she wove together.

“It starts with ‘Parting Words,’ which deals with emigrating of the soldier to wherever our protagonist might be headed,” she said.

The poetry allows the music to be multidimensional, fusing folk styles and idioms with more classic orchestral ideas.

“A gospel, rocking-chair, and yet its got a depth from the poetry that is almost Mahler-esque,” she said.

The premiere of Maria Newman’s original composition “Songs for Soldiers,” a suite for string orchestra and percussion, will be performed by Omaha Conservatory of Music students at Performing Arts Center at Westside Middle School on Saturday, July 26th at 7:00 p.m. For more details see

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