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Lamont Student Profile: Paige Newman

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Ian Wisekal

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Meeting in my office on a sunny spring morning, Paige Newman, a senior in composition, greeted me with a warm, enthusiastic smile. Recently named this year’s Presser Scholar, Newman has been recognized for her outstanding contribution and achievement in music, earning a $3000 prize.

Growing up as a band kid, Newman’s journey into music began in the fifth grade. “I started playing the flute, like a large portion of American children,” she chuckled. Active in marching band, flute lessons, and musical theater, Newman initially auditioned for flute performance in college. However, she quickly realized that performance wasn’t her true calling. During a profoundly emotional experience playing Frank Ticheli’s arrangement of the folk song “Shenandoah,” she had a eureka moment. “Everyone was crying, including the director. I thought, ‘I want to write; I want to make people cry.’” From that moment on, composition became her passion.

One of Paige’s first compositions was a band arrangement of “Loch Lomond,” reflecting her love of folk song. She chose Lamont based on her love for our state. “If it were up to me, I would never leave Colorado,” she confessed. A trial lesson with Professor Leanna Kirchoff, despite having no prior composition lessons, solidified her choice. “It really clicked,” she recalled. The campus felt just right—small, but not too small—and as a bonus, she was thrilled to be at a school with a strong hockey culture.

At Lamont, Newman appreciated the unique structure of the composition program, where students rotate between three professors: Sean Friar, Leanna Kirchoff, and Nathan Hall. “It’s great to get so many different perspectives; they all have their specialties and their styles of composing and teaching. In something as subjective as composition, it’s good to have a well-rounded critique.”

One of Newman’s highlights at Lamont was studying abroad in Glasgow, Scotland. There, she composed for the flute choir at the University of Glasgow, took bagpipe lessons, and even visited Loch Lomond while listening to the song that had once inspired her early composition. 

She was also working on a choir commission for the Sing Me a Story Foundation, an organization that sets literature and poems by disadvantaged children to music. “You have to wholeheartedly believe that what you’re doing is important,” she noted, but also emphasized the importance of perspective. For that project, she composed a piece inspired by a poem from Aidan, a four-year-old boy, titled “My Police Car.” The story depicted Aidan’s perfect day at the park, eating Cheerios, seeing butterflies, and playing with his toy car. “I had to break the ‘composer shell’ to meet the lyricist where he was,” she explained.

At Lamont, Newman’s compositions have been performed regularly, from the Steel Pan Ensemble—where she has played for four years—to the quarterly LCCS concerts. Her piece for the Sing Me a Story Foundation was performed by the Mountain Vista High School choir in February 2023, marking her debut in the choral genre.

Looking ahead, Newman plans to use her prize money to strengthen her technological capabilities for movie scoring, investing in software and sound libraries. She plans to take a gap year before applying to graduate school to refine her portfolio and technical skills. “I’ll be around,” she said, confirming that she would stay in Colorado for the time being. She hopes to continue working with the composition faculty at Lamont, explore composer residencies, and even pursue a National Park residency, where she could create art for the park and participate in ranger talks.

With her spirit of determination and the support of the Lamont community, Paige’s journey, like her music, will be exciting to follow.

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