Bloch was born in Geneva on July 24, 1880 to Jewish parents. He began playing the violin at age 9. He began composing soon after. He studied music at the conservatory in Brussels, where his teachers included the celebrated Belgian Violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. He then travelled around Europe, moving to Germany (where he studied composition from 1900–1901 with Iwan Knorr at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt), on to Paris in 1903 and back to Geneva before settling in the United States in 1916, taking US citizenship in 1924. He held several teaching appointments in the USA with George Antheil, Frederick Jacobi, Quincy Porter, Bernard Rogers, and Roger Sessions among his pupils. See: List of music students by teacher: A to B#Ernest Bloch.
Suzanne Bloch, born in 1907, was a musician particularly interested in Renaissance music who taught harpsichord, lute and composition at the Juilliard School in New York.
Lucienne Bloch, born in 1909, worked as Diego Rivera's chief Photographer on the Rockefeller Center mural project, became friends with Rivera's wife, the Artist Frida Kahlo, and took some key photos of Kahlo and the only photographs of Rivera's mural (which was destroyed because Lenin was depicted in it).
In 1917, Bloch became the first Teacher of composition at Mannes School of Music, a post he held for three years. In December 1920 he was appointed the first Musical Director of the newly formed Cleveland Institute of Music, a post he held until 1925. Following this he was Director of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music until 1930. He spent most of the following decade in Switzerland where he composed his Avodath Hakodesh ("Sacred Service") before returning to the USA in 1939.
In 1941, Bloch moved to the small coastal community of Agate Beach, Oregon and lived there the rest of his life. He taught and lectured (mostly summers) at the University of California, Berkeley until 1951. In 1952 he is named “Professeur Eméritus de l'Université de Berkeley," even though he was not a full-time professor.
He died on July 15, 1959 in Portland, Oregon, of cancer at the age of 78. In keeping with a special tradition, Lucienne Bloch and her husband, Steve Dimitroff, prepared several death masks of Ernest Bloch. This once-common practice was usually undertaken to create a memento or portrait of the deceased, but it is unusual for an immediate family member to make the death mask. The Center for Creative Photography and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music each have a copy of Bloch's death mask. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered near his home in Agate Beach.
Bloch's photography was discovered by Eric B. Johnson in 1970. With the encouragement of Bloch's children, Johnson edited and printed hundreds of his photographs which can be viewed at http://www.ericjohnsonphoto.com
The Bloch Memorial, which was dedicated by Oregon Governor Bob Straub with Ernest Bloch's three children at his side on April 10, 1976, was moved from near his house in Agate Beach to a more prominent location in front of the Newport Performing Arts Center in Newport, Oregon. In 2009, the City of Newport City Council designated a street in Newport as Ernest Bloch Place. In 2016, the Oregon Department of Transportation Board of Commissioners officially designated the Ernest Bloch Memorial Wayside in the area of Agate Beach where the original Ernest Bloch Memorial was dedicated in 1976. The Ernest Bloch Memorial Wayside and Monument will be formally dedicated in 2018.
Many of the photographs Bloch took—over 6,000 negatives and 2,000 prints many printed by Eric Johnson from the original negatives—are in the Ernest Bloch Archive at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson along with photographs by the likes of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Richard Avedon.