BY CAIRRIL MILLS
Lenny Newman, 88, and his wife, Lou, 84, fill their days with music. They attend up to five recitals a day at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, have season tickets at the Musical Arts Center and IU Auditorium, serve on The Society of the Friends of Music board, and perform as Lenny & Lou twice weekly at area retirement communities, nursing homes, and special events.
Their life together began with music. After being prodded by family and friends, the two met at a relative’s house. When Lenny played the first four notes, “Back home again…” on the piano, Lou sidled up to the keyboard beside him and answered, “…in Indiana.” Three days later they were engaged. They married in January 1951.
“Everything fit,” says Lenny. “We’re both Jewish, we both lived as the only Jewish family in our towns, we’re both musicians, and our parents were both in the retail business.”
The couple managed several stores in Jasper, Indiana, among them Rochester Department Store and Newman’s Diamond Center, while raising five children. They have always been community minded, offering hours of service to more than 40 organizations through the years. In 2001, Lenny was named a Sagamore of the Wabash by Governor Frank O’Bannon, and last year the couple received the first Champion of the Arts award in Jasper.
After retiring in 1991, they moved to Bloomington. Within weeks they were asked to join the Friends of Music board and soon became acquainted with many of the deans in the music school, where they endowed a scholarship.
Throughout their busy lives, music remained a constant — Lou accompanied opera singers on the piano, Lenny soloed on the accordion with local groups — but the two really polished their act when they moved to Bloomington. As Lenny & Lou, they play an almost nonstop, 45-minute set from the Great American Songbook.
“Our best people to play for are the people in the Alzheimer’s unit,” says Lou. “They can’t even talk, but they lie there with their lips moving — they remember the words to all the old songs.” Lenny adds, “We could live on that for two years! And we get to do it every week.”
Search for “Lenny & Lou 1” on YouTube to hear a sample set. Contact them at [email protected] to learn about their next gig.