Jon Newton

Music Preparation

J Newton Picture


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I've always loved music notation. It's a wonderful art form.

In the 1970's I began creating sheet music for folks in Portland, Oregon as a means of making extra money while working through college.

One of my clients was the associate conductor of the Oregon Symphony, Norman Leyden. Norman was writing arrangements for the symphony's pops concert series, and he hired me to create parts for the various instruments using his orchestral score.

Norman's wife Alice was his principal copyist and she taught me how they worked. She used specialized caligraphy pens and very dark ink to write the notes on transparent paper called vellum, or onion-skin. This paper had staff lines pre-drawn on the back side and when the parts were sent to the printer--basically a blueprint company--both staff lines and notes would print.

To deal with errors, we used an electric eraser which basically carved the notes out of the thick vellum. Because the staff lines were on the back, they would not be removed.

We created sheet music this way for a number of years. Norman's library still contains many of these hand-crafted instrumental parts.

In about 1985, a company called Finale released a software application that allowed making sheet music on the computer. I hopped on board right away, only to discover that working with Finale was exteremely difficult. I was not that knowledgeable about the computer itself, much less this complex and tricky application. The first few projects I tried were chaotic, as we (me and a team of like-minded novices) would print out what we could figure out how to do correctly, and then hand write in elements we coudn't.

However, little by little, Finale became a very valuable tool. Today I use it to create, in some cases, some very complex sheet music.

I've included some examples in the tabs on the left, feel free to browse!

Keith Clark is internationally active as conductor, composer, recording artist and festival director.

I've had the opportunity to craft scores for several of his rich, modern choral works.

His sometimes dense compositions feature wonderful counterpoint, mostly tonal, often dissonant, but always supremely musical. His projects are a treat to work on.

Bryan Johanson is an Oregon guitarist and composer who specializes in music for guitar ensembles.

I've had the opportunity to create some very complex music for his compositions, both traditional and modern.

His music presents some especially satisfying notation challenges.

Hollis Taylor is an American violinist and composer, currently residing in Australia.

I had the honor to notate several of her collection including Unsquare Dances, which blurs the lines between classical, jazz, and folk. European folk music in compound meter, composed during a year's residence in Budapest, Hungary. This page is from one of the pieces in that collection.

I'm a fiddle player, and I still study her fabulous bluegrass transcriptions.

Rece Jay (Lorece Newton) is a talented singer-songwriter from Seattle, Washington. She's now fronting her own band, featuring her unique blend of country, blues, and southern funk.

As a songwriter, she is especially prolific. I've had to opportunity to notate over 30 of her songs, in all her various styles.

Her projects involve audio transcription, and her sycopating phrasing makes for some interesting and challenging melodic lines.

You can read about her band at the Rece Jay website.

David Pomeranz is an American singer-songwriter, best known for Barry Manilow hits, several Broadway shows, and songs included in Hollywood feature films.

I worked with David on a musical theater project called The Kiss, written and produced by Oscar-winning animator Will Vinton. I worked on arrangements of David's songs for singers and band.

The Kiss is currently being promoted in New York, and we hold out great hope for its success! Visit David's website for more info.

Roger Bean is a Los Angeles writer and director who specializes in "jukebox musicals," shows that feature familiar songs with smaller casts. His hilarious shows are popular with companies that include Milwaukee Repertory Theater and Oregon Cabaret Theater.

I've worked on four shows for Roger, including the very entertaining The Andrews Brothers. This show involved transcribing the original Andrews Sisters recordings, then arranging for rhythm section with horns.

His shows are a blast to work on and also to see, highly recommended.

Stephen is a Portland violist and longtime member of the Oregon Symphony. For many years he presented an annual concert, for which he often commissioned pieces by Portland composers.

I had the opportunity to compose three piece for Stephen, including the piece shown here.

Divertimento for Viola and Piano is a light-hearted piece with some virtuosic requirements of the performers including difficult pizzicato. The piece premiered in 2010, performed by Mr. Price and pianist Janet Coleman.

I've had the opportunity to work with some really great opera performers, providing recording/mixing along with arrangements and sheet music.

This page is from a project I worked on for the singing duo of Beth Donnelly and Doug Feller, who perform and teach in Portland. Their shows are a delightful blend of serious operatic works and lighter musical theater and pop songs.

They are accompanied by great musicians including virtuoso pianist Richard Bower.

Musical theater is a satisfying pursuit; I've had the pleasure of working as a music director, conductor, performer in many productions.

I've worked on a number of new, original shows which presents a special set of challenges.

There are also situations where an existing music theater piece needs to be transposed, re-arranged, or just made into a more readable chart (*cough* Jesus Christ Superstar *cough*). The page to the left reflects this type of work.

Gospel music is popular in today's world. A couple years ago I formed a gospel quartet called The Grace Brothers and began created arrangements in this style. The page at the left is from one of the charts done for that group.

Southern gospel often employs male four-part harmony, a bit like barbershop, but with a country or R & B feel.

Among music styles, traditional classical may be the most complex in terms of notation.

Pieces in the public domain can be re-arranged, have their key, style, and instrumentation changed.

The software I use, Finale, is ideal for this kind of work.

Creating orchestral scores is an especially great notation challenge.

This image is a page from an orchestral piece I arranged for the Eugene Symphony a few years ago. It's a medley of Christmas tunes with a bluegrass flavor called, ahem, the Ho Ho Hoedown.

The commission was setup by show producer Greg Tamblyn.

Musicians playing some music styles -- like jazz, country, and rock -- prefer music with a "handwritten" sheet music style.

Luckily, notation software provides such a font.

In fact, in some ways this music is easier to read, especially at a gig with low light and a shaking stage.