Milton Schwartz, a violinist who was the last surviving original member from when the National Symphony Orchestra was organized 72 years ago by conductor Hans Kindler, died of kidney failure Feb. 3 at the ManorCare nursing home in Potomac. He was 94.
Mr. Schwartz toured the world with the symphony and played, mostly in the third chair, until 1981. After that, he sold his only violin to a man who wanted it for his daughter and never took up the instrument again.
"I've been playing since I was 3," the former child prodigy told his sister, singer and pianist Phyllis Joyce Hudson. "It's time I relaxed."
Mr. Schwartz was a fixture in the NSO from the Kindler era through the time of Mstislav Rostropovich, and there would be respectful applause from the regulars as he took his chair onstage. He had a few students over the years, but for the most part his life was with the symphony.
Mr. Schwartz was born in Vineland, N.J., into a musically inclined family, all of whose members had perfect pitch, his sister said. As a child living in Brooklyn, he played in theaters across the New York metropolitan area. The marquees would announce the appearances of "the Boy Wonder."
By age 7, he had won all the music competitions open to him in the region. By the time he was 14, Mr. Schwartz was touring Canada and making recordings of major violin solos. He recorded under the name David Cherner.
He didn't bother to finish high school but studied privately and won a scholarship to the David Mannes Music School in New York. The family later moved to Washington.
Mr. Schwartz and his sister, whose stage name is Phyllis Joyce, performed together at theaters in Washington, sometimes doing four to six shows a day. They also appeared in concerts at the Phillips Collection and other halls and performed on radio shows.
Mr. Schwartz also performed with cellist and future NSO conductor Howard Mitchell as a member of the Washington String Quartet. The group made its debut in the 1930s at Town Hall in New York.
While symphony orchestra musicians typically teach a number of students on the side, Mr. Schwartz didn't enjoy it that much, his sister said. He taught from time to time, and his students included the daughter of Wolf Trap Park founder Catherine Filene Shouse.
He did enjoy composing, Joyce said, creating music for her that she sang and played on the piano, with his accompanyment.
After he retired, Mr. Schwartz continued to travel, a passion he acquired early on, despite the discomforts of trips on the cheap with the symphony.
He also loved to paint and draw, and his artwork was exhibited at the Kennedy Center. He was honored there four years ago in the Concert Hall at a performance dedicated to him by the symphony.
His other interests included collecting statues of horses. He didn't ride them or bet on them, recalled Joyce, a resident of Ocean View, Del. He just "liked looking at them."
She is his only immediate survivor.