Ada Richter; Wrote Children's Piano Books

Posted: May 31, 1990

For 55 years, Ada Richter taught millions to play the piano, but not in her living room. She never met most of the people to whom her name was a household word.

Ada Augusta Richter, who died Monday at Kennedy Memorial Hospitals/Cherry Hill Division, was a nationally acclaimed writer of children's piano books. Among the works by the 60-year resident of Merchantville were several hundred original compositions and about 75 instructional piano volumes, including the Ada Richter Piano Course.

Her goal was to make classical music fun for youngsters, said her son, Edward, of Lumberton. "She would mix Brahms with 'Tea for Two,' things the kids could relate to," he recalled yesterday.

When she was growing up in Pennsauken, her family didn't have a piano, so the former Ada Schulze taught herself to play at neighbors' houses and on the pianos at school. After she finally persuaded her parents to allow her to take lessons, she suffered through teachers who could scarcely play themselves or who read the newspaper while she played.

That rocky start inspired her interest in teaching young people a painless way to learn piano. As a third-grade teacher in Camden, she became adept at rearranging classics, including plays and nursery rhymes, in ways that were entertaining for children.

It was her husband, Alfred Carl Richter, a classically trained musician

from Austria, who got her to write down the songs she had composed for her third graders.

Mrs. Richter sold her first piece, "The Clock," to a New York publishing firm in 1934. In 1937, Ada Richter's Kindergarten Class Book was published by Theodore Presser Publishers in Philadelphia. Although the book reached five editions in its first year, Mrs. Richter's earnings were less than $50.

She went on to publish dozens of instructional books for piano, voice and organ. The Ada Richter Piano Course, originally bought by Warner Bros., is still in print by Harms Publishing Inc. of New York.

Eventually, Mrs. Richter developed her own method of piano instruction, one that got children to use the entire keyboard rather than just the middle octaves. She traveled around the country lecturing on her piano technique. ''She was very entertaining, a great speaker," her son said.

Mrs. Richter studied at the Philadelphia Academy of Music. She received her teaching license from New Jersey State Teachers College.

She was a member of Grace Episcopal Church in Merchantville.

Her husband died in 1980.

Survivors besides her son include a daughter, Barbara Glick of Sea Isle City, N.J.; five grandchildren; three great-grandchildren, and two sisters.

Services will be tomorrow, with visitation at 11 a.m. and the funeral at noon at Stephenson-Brown Funeral Home, 33 W. Maple Ave., Merchantville.

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