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March 17, 2020

Listening to His Legacy

A composer thrives in the family craft.

John Griffiths
  • Joey Newman at the conductor’s podium

    Enrique Chavez

Hollywood scion Joey Newman may be the busiest composer in TV.

Having notched nine seasons of ABC's The Middle, he's now creating music for CBS's freshman hit All Rise and the Disney+ drama Diary of a Future President.

The latter series charts both the present days of Cuban-American middle-schooler Elena (newcomer Tess Romero) and, yes, her future life as America's commander in chief (Gina Rodriguez, who's also an executive producer).

"I have three daughters myself, including a middle-schooler," Newman says. "It's fun to encourage female empowerment."

It's a good bet one of those daughters will become a composer, too. Newman's family reigns supreme in music for movies and TV. His maternal grandfather, Lionel, won an Oscar for the score of the 1969 film Hello, Dolly!, while his great-uncle Alfred collected nine Oscars between 1939 and 1968.

The biz has also been good to Alfred's offspring: Thomas (an Emmy winner for the Six Feet Under theme), David (Ice Age , Girls Trip) and Maria, a composer and violinist who also scores vintage silent films. Then there's Alfred and Lionel's nephew — and Newman's "surrogate grandfather" — Randy (Toy Story, Marriage Story).

"I can't remember when music wasn't part of my life — it's in the genes," says Joey Newman, whose mom, Jenifer Newman, danced with New York City Ballet. His father, Joe Frank Carollo, coheadlined the '70s pop group Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds ("Don't Pull Your Love").

Joey's wife, Jerelyn, majored in classical vocal performance at the Boston Conservatory and later founded L.A.'s Westside Children's Theatre.

Newman himself started playing drums at age eight, sang in a children's choir with the L.A. Opera at 10 and tickled the ivories with his granddad a bit before Lionel — perhaps best known as Star Wars music supervisor — passed away.

"I saw him conduct some concerts, but he had pretty much retired," he recalls. "I wish I could have talked to him more about music."

Taking the family craft seriously, Newman studied film scoring at Boston's Berklee College of Music and soon was assisting W. G. "Snuffy" Walden in scoring TV shows. By 2001, Newman was coscoring episodes of Once and Again.

He went on to compose for Providence, Privileged and Mysteries of Laura before he struck up the band for The Middle (which featured a musical episode). Along the way, he earned an Emmy nomination for the reality show Little People, Big World.

More recently, Newman — whose tastes run from Ravel to Earth, Wind & Fire to the Milk Carton Kids — has also been conjuring themes for Disney+'s Earth to Ned, a spoofy talk show hosted by an E.T. (in Jim Henson Company puppet form).

In his downtime, he performs with his dad, who's 80, in a local rock band. "It's mostly film composers who don't get out to play a lot — we get together and jam."


This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, issue No. 1, 2020

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