Composer and trumpeter Farnell Newton was born on March 21, 1977, in Miami, Fla., where he was exposed to many forms of music, including jazz, salsa, funk, and hip-hop. Moving to Philadelphia in 1992, he attended the High School of Creative and Performing Arts, and gained more experience with the music he truly loves — jazz. While in Philadelphia, Newton also learned from his uncles, saxophonist and arranger Conny Murray and drummer Sunny Murray.
Relocating to Denver in 1994, Newton graduated from the Denver School of the Arts and then moved to Ohio to study at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. He studied music performance with an emphasis in jazz with Wendell Logan and trumpeter Kenny Davis. While at Oberlin, Newton performed with Aretha Franklin, James Moody, Marvin Santiago, and Muhal Richard Abrams.
From Oberlin, Newton moved to Portland, Ore., where he has performed regularly with Mel Brown, Thara Memory, Bobby Torres, Johnny Polanco, Ricardo Lemvo, and Darrell Grant. In 2006, Farnell released his first album, Sense of Direction, co-led by pianist Marcus Reynolds on Diatic Records.
From 2007-2009, he served as graduate assistant of music performance at Portland State University under the direction of Charles Gray and Darrell Grant, and later earned his master’s in music in jazz studies. He presently works as a professor of jazz trumpet at Portland State.
Currently, Newton performs with the Mike Phillips Band. He also is developing and maintaining a multicultural jazz education program in metropolitan Portland. He started the PDX Jazz Project in summer 2009, an organization for youth ages 13 to 18, designed to preserve and forward the history of jazz music through performance, education, and community events.