Marion Newman

Marion Newman
Marion Newman

Category: Indigenous Community Alumni Awards

Name: Marion Newman - Nege'ga
UVic degree and year: Bachelor of Music, 1993                   

Other degrees: San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Master of Music, 1995 

Current hometown: Toronto, ON               

Birthplace: Bella Coola, BC

Marion Newman (she/her) is an accomplished Kwagiulth and Stó:lō  First Nations mezzo-soprano with English, Irish and Scottish heritage. She is the new host of Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on CBC radio. Newman will make her debut with the Welsh National Opera in June 2022. She has been acclaimed for her portrayals of Dr. Wilson in Missing and title roles in Shanawdithit and Carmen. Newman is Co-Founder of Amplified Opera, a group that centres artists and encourages audiences to embrace diverse and challenging cultural experiences.

Newman is sought after as a speaker, teacher, dramaturge, director and advisor for institutions and arts organizations across North America.

Q: What was the moment you realized your career calling?

MN: I knew I wanted to be a musician at age five. I knew I wanted to be a singer by the time I finished my piano degree at UVic. It was the collaboration and sharing in the inspiration, energy and responsibility that is called for, and that you rarely work alone as an opera singer, that caught my interest.

Q: What is a favourite book you read in the last five years and why?

MN: Just one? Hmm… I recently finished Unreconciled: Family, Truth, and Indigenous Resistance, by Jesse Wente. I loved this book because so much of Jesse’s experience as a young person resonated for me. The circles his parents introduced him to and the way they created connection to his First Nations community and culture, as well as making sure he understood he was not only welcome but needed in non-Indigenous places really hit home. I have the most incredible parents a person could ask for, and they have made sure I grew up with the confidence needed to navigate any experience with curiosity and courage. It is wonderful to know that Jesse had a similar experience. 

Q: What is a movie or television show that always makes you laugh?

MN: I’m on my third time through Schitt’s Creek. Teachings of redemption, love-is-love, being thankful for the small things and the importance of community all wrapped in a hilarious package.

Q: What is your advice to younger people entering your line of work or who feel lost or confused about their future? 

MN: Believe people when they say they like you, they like what you do and they want to stay in touch. I was afraid to bother anyone, early on in my career. Now I realize that they wanted me there so badly that they just kept inviting me in. Those supportive people are why I’ve made it to where I am.

Never stop learning and don’t be afraid to make mistakes: learn, apologize if needed and move forward. And remain open to other ways of engaging in your area of interest and expertise. If you are confused or lost, it may just be that you haven’t landed in the right role for you yet. But what you’ve learned so far will never be a waste.

Q: Whats a part of your daily routine that you cant do without? Do you have a mantra that you can share? 

MN: When a task seems daunting, I make myself do it for ten minutes. Nearly every single time I end up working at whatever it is for an hour or much more. Setting rewards for myself like a beautiful meal or time with a friend gives me inspiration. Stretching is very important and must be done at least three times a day. 

My mantra: The worst thing that can happen is that I learn I don’t want to be involved in (whatever the event or project is) and I end up back where I am now, but with the knowledge not to repeat. The best thing that can happen is as yet unknown—and I love a good mystery.

Q: How did UVic, or your faculty specifically, shape you as a person?

MN: Dr. Robin Wood was my piano teacher at UVic. I still think of him often. He was so full of humour and mischief. He helped me to understand that one can be very distinguished and accomplished and also silly. That important lesson in how to allow life to be fun makes everything seem so much more delightful.


Q: What do you hope you and your work will ultimately contribute toward a better future for people and the planet? 

MN: Telling Indigenous story through opera and art song gives me a chance to share Indigenous perspective that has been denied most people in Canada. I hope to bring about better awareness and understanding that will lead to meaningful change in who we see as our leaders and innovators. Creating space for Indigenous ways of knowing and behaving will let us all see that we as human beings are a part of the earth, and I hope that will make us all wake up to the importance of caring deeply for and protecting the planet.


For the full list of 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients, click here.