Libraries receive collection of famed music educator

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Archives and Special Collections at the University Libraries has received the collection of publications, personal correspondence, photographs and videotapes of Mary Helen Bush Richards, Music Educator Hall of Fame member and UNL alumna.

"We are proud to receive materials from and by UNL's successful alumni such as Ms. Richards. The University Archives is here to preserve the contributions made by the university and its alumni to their fields of study, Nebraska and society," said Mary Ellen Ducey, archivist and special collections librarian.

Richards (1921-98) graduated with distinction from the University of Nebraska with a bachelor's degree in music in education in May 1944. She was a graduate of Lincoln High School and was born in Lincoln on Sept. 27, 1921.

While teaching in California, she recognized the value of teaching children through music and published "Threshold to Music." Richards' goals in music education led to the development of the seminal program, "Education through Music," and the creation of the Richards Institute of Music Education and Research. She was inducted into Music Educators Hall of Fame in 2008.

In 1970, Richards and her staff began offering courses in "Education Through Music." Since that time, thousands of educators have learned how to enliven their classrooms, to be playful with their students, and to hear and appreciate music in ways that mirror Richards' steadfast beliefs: play is at the heart of learning and music (from folksong to masterwork) should be musical and beautiful, even during music study.

During the development of ETM philosophies and practices, Richards wrote numerous books and mentored many music and non-music educators in the United States, Canada and Japan. The ETM Trustees, which worked most closely with her for the first 20 years, has donated to UNL books, newsletters, course advertisements, research papers, curricular developments and personal letters.

"The collection of Mary Helen Richards' papers at her alma mater was formed with the hope of charting and preserving the history and ideas of this remarkable and influential educator," said Peggy Bennett, former ETM trustee and professor of music education at Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin, Ohio.

Bennett coordinated the donation of the collection.

For more information about Richards and "Education Through Music," go to or

- Joan Barnes, University Libraries