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Black, Edward William (Eddie) (1902–1971)

by Ronda Jamieson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Edward William (Eddie) Black (1902-1971), musician, was born on 5 December 1902 at Northam, Western Australia, eldest of four children of William Henry Black, railway employee, and his wife Augusta, née Niedermeyer, both Melbourne born. Educated in Northam and at Perth Modern School, Eddie was taught music by his mother and from 1920 studied piano, violin and composition at the Elder Conservatorium of Music, Adelaide (Mus.B., 1924). In 1927 he went to London where he completed three diplomas at the Royal College of Music. He was a member of the London Stock Exchange Dramatic and Operatic Society's orchestra and music master at St Peter's College, Lewisham.

On his return to Perth in 1932, Black settled into a busy schedule. He toured the eastern States for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, performed as an accompanist, taught piano and violin, gave radio broadcasts and conducted the Metropolitan Orchestral Society in Perth. On 29 September 1934 he married a former student Bessie Sultana Bockelberg in the West Leederville Methodist Church; they were to have three sons. A winner of several State and national competitions for composers, among them an A.B.C. contest in 1934, he wrote unashamedly conservative and romantic compositions: while some were larger works for violin, piano and string quartet, most were piano pieces, with occasional songs. For eight years he also played the viola with the Perth Symphony Orchestra.

During World War II Black served with the Australian Army Education Corps as teacher, soloist and accompanist. His 'wonderful sense of fun, brisk speech and warm personality' made him 'an ideal lecturer'. As president of the Western Australian Music Teacher's Association for some twenty years between 1945 and 1971, he launched its Bulletin, re-established its musical festival, inaugurated country festivals through the Adult Education Board, introduced annual lectures for music teachers and effected an affiliation with the Guild of Young Artists and the Religious Teachers' Association of Music and Speech. His vigorous leadership transformed the W.A.M.T.A.

Black was unfailingly courteous to teachers and gentle to pupils, but maintained rigorous standards as a marker. He conducted the University of Western Australia Choral Society and in 1952-61 lectured (part time) in music at the university. An examiner for the local branch of the Australian Music Examinations Board for over thirty years, he was appointed federal examiner in practical music in 1965. He was a delegate to national conferences and committees, and an adjudicator for the Mobil Quest and the Darwin festival. A short man with hazel eyes and a warm smile, Black was a strong-minded perfectionist who preferred to work alone. Rex Hobcroft considered him a natural and highly gifted musician who opened up 'large musical tracts' in Australia. In 1971 Black was appointed M.B.E. and elected federal director of studies on the A.M.E.B. Survived by his wife and sons, he died of hypertensive cardiovascular disease on 26 November 1971 at his Claremont home and was cremated with Anglican rites.

The Edward Black memorial fund finances projects to stimulate music teaching, and the Edward Black memorial prize for open piano solo is presented annually at the W.A.M.T.A.'s musical festival.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Jamieson, What Harmony is This? (Perth, 1986)
  • Edward Black Memorial Concert, 27 May 1972, programme (Perth, 1972)
  • Canon, 12, no 1, Aug 1958, p 421
  • Australian Journal of Music Education, 10, Apr 1972, p 57
  • Australian Composer, June 1972, p 38
  • West Australian, 1 Jan, 29 Nov 1971, 21 June 1975
  • University of Western Australia Archives
  • private information.

Citation details

Ronda Jamieson, 'Black, Edward William (Eddie) (1902–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/black-edward-william-eddie-9518/text16757, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 18 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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