Bidding Farewell to RSC String Department Chair Magdalena Richter

On Friday, January 10, at 7:00 p.m., friends, students, and colleagues will gather in Rivera Recital Hall to bid farewell to RSC string department chair and violinist Magdalena Richter. Richter’s music will be the focus of the evening, as she presents her final public performance before joining a contemplative order of Catholic nuns in Andover, Mass.
Her repertoire this Friday will include John Harbison’s “Song of Solitude # 2,” Aram Khachaturian’s “Sonata-Monologue for Violin Solo,” Arvo Pärt’s “Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirror in Mirror),” and more, adding up to approximately 70 minutes of music. Her program will also include special guests Anne Tyson, Maryann Han, and Marc Ryser on piano and her son, Elam Richter on double bass. All are welcome to attend the concert and post-concert reception held in Richter’s honor.

As the date of this special and bittersweet event nears, The Rivers School Conservatory reflects on Richter’s many wonderful qualities and contributions. In every role that she has played at RSC and in the world of music education, Richter has stood out as a kind, fair, and inspiring leader.

Violin faculty member Marta Zurad simply says, “She was my violin mentor.” The two met while Zurad was teaching at Longy School of Music, where Richter was invited to listen to concerto competitions and give master classes. From the start, as Zurad observed Richter’s teaching, she knew that Richter “was somebody special” whose musical opinions she could trust. In addition to her undeniable musical credentials as a graduate of the Warsaw Academy of Music and The Juilliard School, Richter was known for her exceptional honesty, giving weight to her words of advice, feedback, and support.

“It’s sometimes not popular to note when music is out of tune or not up to par,” says Zurad, “but if you want to move forward, you have to hear it. You knew that Magdalena would say it.” Always keeping student growth in mind, Richter spoke candidly and fairly about what students could do to improve. She could also, says Zurad, provide “a supportive and gentle hand” when needed.

Violin faculty member Tiffany Pomeroy says that Richter “was always concerned about how the student was feeling and how happy the student was.” Noting Richter’s sensitivity to student needs, Pomeroy says, “If I had a student who was feeling insecure, Richter would offer to have them play at the very end of the workshop, after everyone else left.” Richter will long be remembered at RSC for such moments of compassion and empathy.

Like Zurad, Pomeroy describes Richter first and foremost as a mentor to other teachers. Early in Pomeroy’s career, she participated in a pedagogy class that Richter taught to a small group of teachers at RSC. The class met for three hours weekly for more than two years. The participating teachers brought some of their violin students, so that Richter could demonstrate sample lessons, working on specific skills such as string-crossing or vibrato. Through observation of Richter’s curriculum and methodology, Pomeroy and her peers learned to become better teachers. Pomeroy reflects, “It was the best thing I’ve ever done for my career.”

When asked what makes Richter’s teaching style stand out, Pomeroy speaks to her high level of organization. She says that Richter’s pedagogy is “systematic. Everything was in preparation for the next technique or level.” Pomeroy also speaks to the flexibility that complemented Richter’s structure: “She would push her students, but she was always sensitive to students’ emotions and aware of when to step back.”

Zurad echoes this appreciation, commenting on Richter’s “incredible wisdom of knowing what was appropriate to say and when, to a student or to us.” Zurad also praises Richter’s sense of humor and the standards that she set. She says of Richter’s high expectations, “She never bent.” Students and faculty under her leadership rose to the challenge and achieved impressive results. RSC Director Gabriella Sanna says, “Her arrival here transformed the string department completely.”

Called “a rock, a pillar, a heart, and a foundation” by Zurad, Richter is a presence that people rely on and believe in, and she will be greatly missed. As her final performance at RSC quickly approaches, the Conservatory looks forward to wishing her the very best in her upcoming journey. Click here to RSVP to the celebration taking place this Friday evening.

—Marissa Birne '15