Born in 1907, Norman Black (nee Nathan Schwartz) was only six years of age when he received a small size violin. Immediately the two became inseparable, and within a short time, he was being hailed as a child prodigy.
Norman Plays Violin
Norman In Tree-Close UP

At age 10, he organized an orchestra at the George W. Childs School in South Philadelphia during the First World War: it had 10 violins, woodwinds, trumpet, and drums, and a 10-year old Norman as conductor.

From there he attended the prestigious Combs Conservatory in North Philadelphia. In 1922, at the young age of 14, he played a series of violin recitals on WLIT and became the first instrumentalist to perform on local radio.

Norman at Combs

Norman at Combs-Zoom Out

At South Philadelphia High School he played first violin in the orchestra, but still continued intensive music studies at prestigious Combs Conservatory in North Philadelphia. Two years later, upon his graduation from Combs, he was hired by the school and, at age 16, became the youngest faculty member in the school’s history.

After his graduation from Combs, and took orchestra training at Curtis Institute under Leopold Stokowski. He studied under Sasha Javcobinoff and Henry Schradeick, both of the University of Pennsylvania and had the distinction of being the only child student accepted by the great master tutor Henry Schradeick.

Norman Black conducts the Breakfast Club

In 1934, Norman Black became assistant conductor of the KYW studio orchestra. Six years later, he became the Musical Director of radio station WFIL where he formed the WFIL String Ensemble and, shortly after the station went on the air, became the first musician to conduct a live orchestra on any local FM station.

He spent 10 years conducting the WFIL String Ensemble, which was broadcast nationally on the ABC radio network. Black was also the first to present live music on local television, conducting an orchestra on WFIL-TV. Norman Black’s career in radio ended in 1950, when live music was replaced by pre-recorded music.
Norman black and the Breakfast Club with baking outfits


Norman Black with Stravinsky

That same year, he joined the Philadelphia Orchestra as a violinist.

He later conducted summer concert programs at the Dell.
Norman Black at Music Festival

During his time with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Norman Black was an active member of the musician’s union and was dedicated to improving conditions for the Orchestra members.

Six months before his forced retirement at age 65, he resigned, at the sacrifice of a significant portion of his pension. He unsuccessfully sued the Orchestra association against forced retirement.

“All my life I have opposed discrimination and will, therefore, not permit the association to oust me strictly because of my birthdate but reserve the right, out of respect for my personal dignity to resign on behalf of other musicians who may one day face the same indignity,” said Norman Black.

After resigning from the Orchestra, he continued to play music and teach violin. In 1976, he reformed his Philadelphia Symphonette and performed three concerts before his death in 1977 at age 69.