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Childhood friendship with DSO conductor brings Randy Newman to town for benefit

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Randy Newman is no stranger to composing and arranging for orchestras. Or conducting them.

But his weekend appearance with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, as part of its annual Salute to Heroes Gala and fundraiser to raise $1 million for the DSO's youth programs, has a more personal connection.

Newman's friendship with DSO Music Director Leonard Slatkin goes back to their youth in Los Angeles, where Slatkin's parents played in movie studio orchestras conducted by his uncles Alfred and Lionel Newman. "They knew each other from the musical community in Los Angeles and worked together in those orchestras, so I knew Leonard from the soundstage," says Newman, 71, a Grammy and Academy Award winner who's been inducted into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "I think we played baseball, some, we played catch.

"It wasn't a musical relationship," Newman adds. He was far advanced from me. It was just a different education; I started writing songs when I was 15, and he was playing Liszt's entire catalog by then, I think. He's a good guy -- a great sense of humor and a helluva musician and can speak articulately and interestingly about music, or anything."

During Saturday's (June 6) concert Newman will be conducting suites of his music from the films "Avalon," "The Natural" and "Maverick," along with a selection of his own songs -- including "Short People," "I Think It's Gonna Rain" and "Toy Story's" "You've Got a Friend in Me" -- both with and without orchestra.

"I love the sound of an orchestra, and I love musicians in general, the people who play in the orchestra," says Newman, who's recently composed the score for "Toy Story 4" and has been writing for a new song album he plans to record this year. "I like the experience of playing with them. It's about working with absolutely fantastic musicians who spent their lives in a room by themselves getting good at what they're doing.

"I'm always cognizant of the honor of that, and I always enjoy it a great deal."

The Concert For Our Heroes Gala, with Randy Newman and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, honoring the Davidson/Gerson families.

7 p.m. Saturday, June 6.

Orchestra Hall, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit.

Tickets are $25-$75. Additional packages including a post concert black-tie dinner and dancing are available by calling the DSO.

Call 313-576-5111 or visit www.dso.org.

Web Site: www.dso.org

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