Farnell Newton was born in Miami, Florida, and moved to Philadelphia in 1992, where he attended the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts. While in Philadelphia, Newton also studied with his uncles, saxophonist/arranger Conny Murray and Sunny Murray, one of the early avant garde's most inventive and influential drummers.
Newton graduated from the Denver School of the Arts after moving to Denver in 1994 and then moved to Ohio to study at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. At Oberlin, Newton studied music performance with an emphasis in jazz and was mentored by Wendell Logan and trumpeter Kenny Davis. Newton performed with Aretha Franklin, James Moody, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Hugh Ragin while at Oberlin.
After graduating from Oberlin, Newton moved to Portland, Oregon, where he performed regularly with drummer Mel Brown, percussionist Bobby Torres, Akbar Depriest, and many others. He earned a Master’s degree in Jazz Studies and Performance from Portland State University in 2008.
After completing his graduate work, Newton toured extensively with three time Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Jill Scott and with the Legendary Rhinestone Rockstar Bassist “Bootsy” Collins.
When he is not spending time with his family, leading his funk band (The Othership Connection), or hosting his own jazz radio show at KMHD 89.1fm, he is touring & recording. Over the years Farnell has performed with Jarrod Lawson, Stevie Wonder, Skerik, Lettuce, Slightly Stoopid, Karl Denson, Galactic, Nigel Hall, Mike Phillips, and the Portland Cello Project. Newton also created a jazz social media group called Jam of the Week in 2013 which now features over 70,000 members worldwide.