Norman E. Johns joined the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 1975. In 2000, he was named assistant principal cellist. He has performed on more than 100 recordings with the CSO and Pops and has traveled the world touring with the orchestra.
He is an adjunct faculty member of Xavier University’s Music Department and is a private music teacher. He also is a faculty member of the School for the Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) where he co-founded the Corbett Quartet in 1985. Johns still enjoys playing in the quartet today. In some ways, Johns’ life has come full circle as he fondly remembers the days in the late 60s when he first played in a string quartet at West Philadelphia High School.
In honor of his 20th anniversary with the CSO in 1995, the Multicultural Awareness Council of the CSO established the Norman E. Johns Chair in the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra, which underwrites the cost of a year’s tuition in the CSYO for students of color who successfully complete the audition process.
In 2005, Norman E. Johns was the recipient of the Post-Corbett Award Lifetime Achievement Award in Cincinnati. In addition, he has received numerous awards including the Donald Sowell Award from the Arts Consortium (1995), APPLAUSE Image Maker (1993) and recognition from the Black Male Coalition (1996).
A native of Philadelphia, Johns played in its all-city orchestra and studied at the Settlement Music School. He earned his bachelor’s degrees in music and music education from the Philadelphia Music Academy. After graduation, Johns taught as a strings specialist in the Philadelphia School System. At that time, he also won the prestigious string competition sponsored by the National Association of Negro Musicians in 1973, which led to his Carnegie Recital Hall debut. Johns also won a scholarship to study at the prestigious International Institute for Advanced Music Studies in Montreux, Switzerland.