The Richards Institute of Education and Research was incorporated in October of 1969 for the purpose of disseminating new findings and materials of Education Through Music (ETM); a program Mary Helen Richards was creating for the music education of children. Her findings, new and unusual in American education, were based on the music education philosophy of Hungarian composer, Zoltan Kodaly. Prior to ETM, Mrs. Richards had published Threshold to Music; ETM was the correction she felt was needed to that program. Soon a small group of educators from the United States and Canada joined Mrs. Richards, assisting in developing and testing ETM ideas and fostering its growth.
The Richards Institute enjoyed rapid growth in both the broad scope of its materials and those educators eager to be kept abreast of Mrs. Richards' new ideas. Quickly, ETM became more than "another music program" as music, classroom, and special needs teachers saw in ETM a way to combine their individual efforts for the benefit of children. Early on, ETM study for educators was available each summer. A growing demand for winter study soon led to the development of winter courses in which Institute staff traveled by invitation to groups of educators, working with them while they taught during the school year; guiding them in ways to immediately use ETM and redirect their efforts where needed. The Institute now provides year round study through some 14 winter course sites, 3-4 summer fine arts camps, and a week-long "Colloquium" each summer which draws an International audience. University graduate credit is available for courses regardless of where they are held.
From its inception ETM was both vibrant and sometimes challenging to traditional understandings of childhood learning. Delighting the children, easily demonstrable with significant (and sometimes hard to believe) changes in student attitudes, achievement, and self-control, ETM continues to attract teachers with broad and forward looking views of their roles as educators. In the mid-1980's the Institute embarked on new and significant study to inform understandings about how the human brain functions in learning, focusing on what conditions are necessary for effective learning and how the brain develops its memory and those structures which build memory and thus literacy. In light of advances in MRI and CT-scan technology, lecturers and teachers in brain development, psychologists, and neuroscientists continue to offer workshops and mini-courses to ETM participants in winter and summer study throughout North America. These events are part of the ChildFuture initiative; an ongoing effort to place and keep the Institute in the vanguard of leading-edge understandings of the human brain and best-practice teaching.
A growing number of studies of ETM materials and practice begin to confirm empirical evidence of ETM's effectiveness in the areas of communication, reading, child self-efficacy, and stabilization of at-risk populations for children from birth through ages 15 and 16 and often beyond. Central and important to ETM study, therefore, is the live, unrehearsed observation of children conducted by Institute staff, giving teachers the opportunity to see ETM's effects readily and realistically. This traveling staff of master teachers continues its own rigorous study in ETM practice.
The Institute, by custom, is not located in any building. Modest office space is kept for the Executive Director and lead Administrator, while ETM materials are distributed by a volunteer. This permits the Institute to remain extremely cost-effective in delivering its workshops and courses, which remain modest in price. Most significantly, the Institute enjoys thousands of hours of volunteer effort to secure an ongoing ETM presence during even the most uncertain of educational and financial times. The Institute continues today, a California non-profit 501(c) 3 organization, governed by a Board of Directors and headed by an Executive Director who serves at the pleasure of the Board. No longer reliant on any single individual for its future, the Institute remains a vibrant, growing, and exciting place to study the art of educating - through music - which attracts physicians, educators, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, church leaders and the like from around the world.