July 27, 2006
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Dika Newlin, a longtime professor at Virginia Commonwealth University known for her enthusiasm and eclectic interests, died on July 22 at the age of 82.
Newlin taught in the Department of Music at VCU from 1978 until her retirement in 2004. John Guthmiller, chairman of the music department, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch this week that Newlin was adept at relating to her pupils through the music many of them favored.
"She was a great resource for students who needed stimulation beyond the normal academic channels," Guthmiller told the Times-Dispatch. "Dika had a pipeline to students who needed another perspective."
Newlin was a classically trained pianist and composer who developed an interest in punk rock in her golden years, sometimes playing locally in bands. She was the composer of operas, a symphony and other classical pieces. She was also a translator and author whose books included "Bruckner, Mahler and Schoenberg" and "Schoenberg Remembered: Diaries and Recollections, 1938-76," both on the topic of the influential composer Arnold Schoenberg.
Newlin released CDs of her contemporary music and acted in independent films, including the 1995 documentary "Dika: Murder City," which was produced with longtime friend and collaborator, Michael Moore.
In a review of the film, Phil Hall said, "the film's production flaws are easily overlooked by the mad genius of Dika Newlin, a woman who presents the facade of sincerity and intelligence during conversation, but who turns into a raving maniac whenever she steps before a microphone while the music plays."
Newlin was a child prodigy, creating her first piano piece at the age of 8. The Cincinnati Symphony performed her work when she was just 12, and she started studying with Schoenberg at UCLA at 14. She later graduated from the University of Michigan at 16 and secured a doctorate from Columbia University at 22.
Newlin was featured in a People Magazine piece in 2003. In the article, which was accompanied by a picture showing the red-headed Newlin with a devilish grin and an electric guitar, she referred to her atypically accomplished childhood and youthful adulthood: "I feel like a child now more than I did as a child. I try more and more to live by the day, to do something because it feels good."
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