Newell Franklin Barrett was a product of Texas. He grew up in
Mount Pleasant, Texas and lived with his grandparents, Rich and
Ethel Barrett. They, along with his aunt, Arrie Barrett Moreland
were very influential to his upbringing. Arrie figured strongly
in his formative years as a pianist by supervising his practice
and encouraging new goals in contest performance. She was the one
who discovered his ability of perfect pitch. Around 1938, about
age 4, his uncle pulled into the driveway and tapped twice on his
car horn. Newell ran over to the piano and climbed up on the piano
stool and played middle c and e above. His aunt heard him and came
into the living room and said, ”Do that again.” Newell
played the notes again and said “car horn.” That was
how this piece of talent was discovered.
While growing up, there were always recitals and appearances in
and for local service clubs. He also frequently performed in this
grandfather’s restaurant. Classical music was about all he
could play and the local folks would applaud politely. Every once
in a while someone would come over and ask, “how about giving
us a little boogie woogie?” That was sometimes tough to accommodate
since there were few boogie woogies in print in those days. Newell
was a serious young man and one of the most significant needs in
his early life was that of solitude and time to pursue knowledge
from books and exploration of hobbies. Of course, the old upright
piano was also a constant friend in early childhood.
As he matured, his facility with the piano was such that playing
things by ear was easier than learning the music. However, once
in college, one of his Russian teachers discovered that Newell preferred
the keys with flats, over the keys laden with sharps. So, this teacher,
gave Newell Rachmaninoff concerto in F# minor, a Stravinsky etude
in F3 major and a prelude and Fugue by Bach. At this time, Newell
also began studying with German, Italian and Russian teachers and
composers, and earnestly pursued the quest for excellence in his
music throughout his college years.
From age 16, he had dreamed of a piano that would have its own string
accompaniment with perfect synchronization. In 1977 he drew up some
designs for the pianist to access various string sections utilizing
the latest synchronization techniques. The design was enough to
get the Yamaha Company to study it and five years later (1982) things
begin to happen. In reality, it was five more years before this
piano was actually ready for Newell to play for the first time.
He was so pleased, he eventually acquired two of the pianos.
His career spanned over five decades and his accomplishments were
many. From teaching children's music, to performing in various highly
respected bands and orchestras. Newell’s experiences eventually
led him to his distinguished solo career. He shared his gift, playing
the finest venues in the Dallas area, including the Loews’s
Anatole hotel for twelve years. As a recording artist, Newell produced
25 CD’s of his own inspired piano interpretations of classic
and popular compositions, as well as his own original works.
Newell fully appreciated the wondrous musical gift he was given
by God. Next to his family, music was always the main focus of his
life. He also had a great sense of humor and passion for knowledge
and learning. His great music accomplishments will be enjoyed for
generations to come.