Dika Newlin (November 22, 1923—July 22, 2006) was a pianist, professor, composer and punk rock singer. She received a Ph.D from Columbia University at the age of 22. She was one of the last living students of Arnold Schoenberg, a Schoenberg Scholar and a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond from 1978-2004. She performed as an Elvis impersonator and played punk rock while in her 70's in Richmond, Virginia.
She was featured in the documentary Dika: Murder City.
Read excerpts from Bruckner - Mahler - Schoenberg By Dika Newlin, googlebooks.com. Dika Newlin was born in Portland, Oregon. Her name was chosen by her mother and refers to an Amazon in one of Sappho's poems.
Newlin was able to read the dictionary by age 3. She could play the piano by age 6 and began composing music at age 7. When she was 11 she wrote a symphonic piece, Cradle Song, that was performed three years later by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
She entered elementary school at age 5 and finished it at age 8. She graduated from high school when she was 12 and was admitted to the freshman class at Michigan State University, where her parents taught.
After graduating from Michigan State, she and her mother moved to Los Angeles so that she could study with Schoenberg at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Newlin kept a diary of her studies with Schoenberg, whom she called "Uncle Arnold." She published the diary in 1980 as Schoenberg Remembered: Diaries and Recollections (1938-76).
One entry in the diary relates how Schoenberg criticized her string quartet style as "too pianistic." After she acknowledged that she knew it wasn't the best writing, Schoenberg replied: "No, it is not the best, nor even the second best — perhaps the 50th best, yes?"
Newlin later wrote an article on Schoenberg for the Encyclopædia Britannica.
Academic and musical career
Newlin, among the last surviving students of Schoenberg, was "one of the pioneers of Schoenberg research in America," according to Dr. Sabine Feisst, a professor of musicology at Arizona State University. Newlin's doctoral dissertation was published in 1947 as the book Bruckner, Mahler, Schoenberg.
Newlin's compositions include three operas, a piano concerto, a chamber symphony, and numerous chamber, vocal and mixed-media works.
Newlin also translated many of Schoenberg's works from German to English. Newlin herself sang in a costumed performance of Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, which she had translated to English, in Lubbock, Texas in 1999.
In her 70s a new persona emerged from Newlin: a leather-clad punk rocker with bright orange hair.
As a punk rocker, Newlin appeared in horror movies by Richmond producer Michael D. Moore. In director Tim Ritter's 1995 film Creep, Newlin played a person wearing a leather motorcycle jacket who puts poison in baby food at a supermarket.
That same year, Moore directed the documentary about Newlin titled Dika: Murder City. The title was taken from a song Newlin had performed in her solo "cabaret" act for a few years before it became a popular performance piece for her band ApoCowLypso, formed in 1985 with fellow area singer/songwriters Brooke Saunders and Alazka as well as Hunter Duke on drums. With Apocowlypso Newlin performed lead and backing vocals as well as percussion (washboard, tambourine, temple bells) in their peculiar live shows and on the cassette-only EP "Meat the Apocowlypso," the "Electronic Preacher/Richmond Flood" single, and the bootleg "Let It Was" recording. After going through over 20 bass players in their short time together, the members of Apocowlypso went their separate ways in 1988 to pursue other projects.
In 1939 the New York Herald Tribune wrote that Dika Newlin had the highest I.Q. score of any Michigan State University student at that time.
Newlin posed for a pinup calendar when she was in her 70s.
Reporters who interviewed her at home noted that a medieval suit of armor was suspended over her mattress on the floor of her bedroom.
Newlin died in Richmond, Virginia from complications of a broken arm she suffered in an accident on June 30, 2006.