Orchestra student learns composition, pursues career


Zeta Handy

Senior Melaina Newman plays a piece called “Serenade” in the orchestra room. Newman hopes to write more string pieces in the future.

By Jose Garcia, Akins High School

Senior Melaina Newman has dreams to one day compose classical music that inspires other people as much as the great composers that inspire her.

Composing is a relatively new endeavor for Newman, who has participated in orchestra four years and marching band two years at Akins. Newman said she felt motivated by the new orchestra director Thomas Mann and his experience with composition. Mann is a recent graduate of the master’s degree program of music at Texas State University, where she plans to attend college.

Newman also said she wanted to start writing music when she starting seeing conductors like Gustavo Dudamel, who is the music director at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. She said she is inspired by the power of his conducting, which made her want to conduct her own original music.

Newman said she first started playing violin when she was in the sixth grade.

“It was funny because whenever I picked my instrument I didn’t know what it actually looked like,” she said. “I just asked her which one is the smallest one because I’m pretty small so I didn’t think I could handle anything larger than a violin.”

Newman said trying to learn how to compose music on her own hasn’t been easy considering her heavy involvement in Akins music performance programs.

“It’s overwhelming at times,” she said. “It was hell. So many conflicting schedules. But it was alright because the orchestra doesn’t really start up until later in the semester. I somehow magically find time during my off period and just staying up late doing stuff.”

Newman said that mixing all of this in her workday is also very stressful.

“It is very stressful to do, but it’s rewarding in the end,” she said. “Whenever I have something to share and I can say I have a plan and I want to do this and I have control of what I create.”

It is very stressful to do, but it’s rewarding in the end.”

— Melaina Newman

Newman also went on to say that it is a lot of music to learn from the orchestra.

“We learn three pieces at the start of a semester, for concerts,” Newman said. “We learn three for our fall concert for orchestra. And then we learn another three from our winter concert and sometimes the songs we do for winter. We go on and compete on either one of two or those songs. And we learn a few new songs along the way.”

On top of all that, Newman prepared for full orchestra in which she learned another three songs and string orchestra with an additional three songs.

She said marching season is like learning 20 short songs that are played at the football games.

“You know all those tunes you hear up in the stands, we learn those in a day and there is the show music which we take months perfecting it and we take a couple of months memorizing it so we can play it out in the field.”

Newman said she hopes to continue composing in college and beyond.

“I want to try to see if I can write big pieces and get my name out there and I try to write string orchestra pieces just to make it fun for younger players and make more complex pieces for older players.”

Newman said she hopes she can help inspire younger musicians.

“All I’ve ever wanted to do is make a name for myself out there and be a good role model for a younger woman that want to be a composer,” she said.

This story was originally published on The Eagle’s Eye on March 14, 2019.