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The Amazing Accomplishments of the Altman Siblings: Sylvia, Julian and Elmer

This is an amazing story about the Altman siblings: Sylvia, Julian and Elmer. Read about their incredible accomplishments, from graduating high school at 10 to graduating college at 17, and their success in music and radio.
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Sylvia Altman (Washington Post)
Sylvia Altman (Washington Post)

This is an interesting article that we came across, published in the Washington Post on February 10th, 1924.

A 10-year-old student in high school! She is Sylvia Altman, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. Altman, 612 Otis place northwest. The girl will not be 11 years old until June, and she entered Central high school February 1.

Besides being able to enter high school she is an accomplished musician and expects to make her debut in this art the latter part of this month also at Central High school.

When she graduated from the Park View school January 31, her report card showed that she stood “excellent” in every subject.

She was born in Buffalo and came to this city with her parents several years ago. When 12 months old Sylvia had shown no inclination to walk, but one day while her mother was in the kitchen the baby pulled herself up on her feet and without trouble of any kind, walked into the kitchen, almost throwing her mother into a panic.

When 14 months old she began to talk and soon had a vocabulary of nearly 100 words. At 18 1/2 months she expressed her thoughts in full sentences, using a vocabulary of about 300 words. Her school education began when she was 3 years old, in the kindergarten. At the age of 3 1/2 years Sylvia was able to read the first and second readers used in the public schools.

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From early childhood she has been fond of reading. Fairy tales were fer favorites at first, but as years went on she changed her reading to more serious literature. At the age of 7 years she had read nearly 700 books. Her favorite authors at present are Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Booth Tarkington. “They present so much of real life that one can’t help liking them,” she declared.

Sylvia Altman in 1926 (Washington Post)
Sylvia Altman in 1926 (Washington Post)

The mental strength of the young lady seems to grow with her years. At the age of 9 years she took an intelligence test, which showed that she had the mental ability of high school students entering the third year of their course.

In music she has shown unusual ability. She is attending Washington College of Music five times a week for piano instruction, harmony, composition, ear training and history of music. She intends going to college when her high school course is complete.

Though busy with her studies, she finds time to help her mother in house work and to play. She assists her two younger brothers, Julius, aged 8 years, who, having skipped the 1 B and 2 B grades, is in the 4 B grade and who has completed a year’s course in violin study in three months, and Elmer, 6 years old, who is in the second grade. She is fond of the “movies” and plays with dolls. She weighs five and one-quarters pounds over normal.

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Young Sylvia ended up graduating from Central High School in 1926 at the age of 13. Pretty impressive.

She went on to New York University and graduated in 1930 at the age of 17, at the time, the youngest graduate ever from the school.

Sylvia and her brothers went on to musical success as a trio. The Post wrote about the family on July 19th, 1931.

Genius is the word to apply to a 17-year-old girl and her two young brothers, originally of Washington, who are earning fame on the radio and in the New York musical world.

The three, Sylvia Altman, 17 years old, pianist; Julian [sic], 15 years old, violinist, and Elmer, 13 1/2 years old, are visiting Mrs. Sophie Simon, of 1116 Seventh street northwest.

Sylvia graduated from the Park View School at the age of 10 and from Central at 13 and graduated from New York University last June with honors. She is the youngest person to graduate from the university. She was one of the first children ever to broadcast, starting at the age of 10, making her debut over Station WCAP here. At the university she directed her studies toward a bachelor of science degree and majored in psychology, music and English. She recently was awarded a Phi Beta Kappa key.

Her musical education has covered eight years. During this time she has won a number of scholarships. She is studying music at present with Ernest Hutcheson, dean of the Julliard Musical Foundation. She is well known to audiences who tune in on “The Children’s Hour,” “Toddy Party,” “Empire Builders” and “Universal Series.” She played the part of Tilly Toddy for 39 weeks and was a piano soloist in the Gold Medal Trio in “The Children’s Hour.”

She has been received by Presidents Coolidge and Hoover and has been a congressional guest of honor at a luncheon in the National Capital. She has a large number of medals and trophies and a Steinway grand piano as a gift.

Julian, who has the distinction of being the youngest high school graduate in New York City, completed the four-year course at Haaren High School this year, with a gold medal for excellent in music. He has won six gold medals as first prize for his musical ability. He is an outstanding athlete, having won medals in swimming, running, jumping and boxing. He also won a prize for his work in amateur photography.

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Julian, a member of the WJZ Gold Medal Trio, has been broadcasting with his sister for several years, as well as filling musical arrangements in company with Milton J. Gross, of the National Broadcasting Co. Sylvia and Julian appeared in Keith’s vaudeville.

Elmer, who is studying the cello, takes part in the following radio programs: “The Lady Next Door,” The Children’s Hour,” “Uncle Don” and “The Adventures of Helen and Mary.”

The children live in New York with their mother, Mrs. Jeanette Altman, at Gainsborough Studios, 222 Central Park South.

These have to be some of the most accomplished children you’ve ever read about. Makes you feel like you haven’t really done that much with your life.

Julian, Sylvia and Elmer Altman in 1931 (Washington Post)
Julian, Sylvia and Elmer Altman in 1931 (Washington Post)
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