Norman Eris Bernal
1945 - 2020
Norman Bernal, violinist, conductor, and luthier, was born in Lima, Peru, on January 2, 1945, the older of two children and only son of William and Mercedes Bernal, both teachers.
At age seven he was awarded a scholarship to study violin with Harold Franken at the national conservatory of Music in Lima. He completed a bachelor's degree in violin performance in 1968 at what is now Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee, and then graduated with an M.Mus. in violin at Andrews University in 1971, studying with Charles Davis.
He was awarded a doctoral fellowship at Ball State University School of Music in Muncie, Indiana, where he studied violin with George Leedham and conducting under Robert Hargraves. Bernal then taught violin and conducted the school orchestra at Pacific Union College for five years, assisting PUC choirs in two annual performances in The Grace Cathedral Concert Series in nearby San Francisco.
Norman moved to Atlanta, Georgia, in 1979, where he opened Bernal Violins, played as a member of the Atlanta Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, which toured internationally, and conducted other smaller orchestras. He also performed as a freelance soloist and conductor throughout the Southeast. In 1987 began teaching as an orchestra conductor in schools in the Gwinnett County Public School System, teaching in the South Gwinnett High School and Snellville Middle Schools when he retired in 2012.
While living earlier in Michigan and Indiana he began study to become a luthier, the maker of fine handcrafted string instruments. It was a craft he continued to ply during the rest of his career.
A patient teacher, his students enjoyed studying with him, encouraged by his warm personality and personal interest in them, and inspired by what he taught them in his classes. Most recently, he taught part time at the First Redeemer Conservatory of Music and Fine Arts in Cumming, Georgia.
He was living in Lawrenceville, Georgia, when he died on September 7, 2020, at age 75, of COVID-19. He was survived by his daughter, Janeen; son, Alex; and his sister, Hazel Von Maack.
Sources: Obituary, Joshua Barone, "Norman Bernal, Generation-Spanning Music Teacher, Dies at 75." abbreviated version of an article in New York Times, October 7, 2020, Section A, as part of a series about persons who died in the coronavirus pandemic; Obituary, Andrews University Focus, Fall 2020, 32.