Newlin was among the last surviving pupils of Arnold Schoenberg. Her 1980 book Schoenberg Remembered: Diaries and Recollections 1938-76, traces her experiences studying with the composer.
A native of Portland, Oregon, Newlin graduated from the University of Michigan at 16 and earned a doctorate from Columbia University at 22. Her doctoral dissertation, analyzing Schoenberg's music alongside that of Bruckner and Mahler, was published as the book Bruckner-Mahler-Schoenberg in 1947. She translated Schoenberg's essay "Style and Influence" as well as several European books on the composer and his influence on modern music.
Her writings "had a tremendous impact on Schoenberg scholarship in this country," Sabine Feisst, an Arizona State University professor who is working on a collection of Newlin's correspondence with Schoenberg, told the Times-Dispatch.
She taught at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond from 1978 until her retirement two years ago. As a concert reviewer for the Times-Dispatch in the late '70s and early '80s, she covered performances ranging from opera to hard rock. The paper writes that in a review of opening night at the Carpenter Center in 1983, she wrote that the theater was decorated like "some plush palace for pampered felines."
Newlin composed three operas, a symphony, a piano concerto and chamber works, and she began exploring popular music in the mid-'80s. She sang and played keyboards in alternative rock bands such as Apocowlypso at local nightclubs and galleries. "Most artists go through their wild times when they are in their 20s. Dika did that in her 70s," Feisst told the paper.
Newlin's eclectic career also included appearances in alternative-music and horror films, including the 1995 Dika: Murder City, directed by Michael D. Moore.
A comment posted on the web site of an Alexandria, Virginia-based blogger in September 2004, said, "My only lingering (but powerful) memory of Apocowlypso comes from a Greenpeace rally in Monroe Park, perhaps in 1989 or 1990. Dika Newlin was standing with Brooke Saunders banging on pots and pans, a papier-mê¢ch_ whale was floating in the background ... Dika was screeching at the top of her lungs, 'Save! The! Whales! Save! The! Whales!' "