Peterson Electro-Musical Products, Inc. has suffered a great loss early in this year with the passing of its founder, Richard H. (Dick) Peterson. After a 14-year-long bout with a debilitating illness, Dick passed away peacefully at his home at age 83 on January 29, 2009. Over the years, he gained the respect, developed friendships, and collaborated with many greats of the music industry including Don Leslie, Harold Rhodes, and Leo Fender.
Dick Peterson was born on February 26, 1925, in Chicago. He served in the U.S. Army as a radio engineer from 1943 until 1946 and studied electronics at the City College of New York. While in New York City, he visited Radio City Music Hall and would hear the room-filling sound of the theatre pipe organ there. It was then that he realized his life calling and dedicated his existence to “perfecting" the pipe organ.
In 1948, Dick co-founded the Haygren Church Organ Company in Chicago and soon thereafter founded Peterson Electro-Musical Products currently in Alsip, IL. For nearly twenty years, much of his time was devoted to developing and improving the Gulbransen line of electronic church and theatre organs, with many innovations from that work gradually evolving into the first solid state control systems for real pipe organs.
Eventually, in 1998, Peterson would rebuild the very same organ consoles for Radio City that sparked the creation of Peterson Electro-Musical Products, Inc. fifty years earlier.
His efforts and innovative approach to every day problem solving have also led to the creation of a family of musical instrument strobe tuners now familiar to countless thousands of school band students, professional musicians, and musical instrument manufacturers. Peterson mechanical strobe tuners quickly became the standard for touring musicians and recording studios. Many recording engineers, when referring to their strobe tuner, often informed the band that nothing would be recorded until they had tuned with "Mr. Peterson".
Besides spending time with Carol, his devoted wife of 53 years, and with his other family members, Dick's greatest passion was applying modern technology to pipe organ building. The goal was always to make organs better, more affordable, and consequently more available for people to enjoy. During his long and prolific career, he was awarded over 70 patents.
Peterson Electro-Musical Products, Inc. still remains a family owned and operated business to this day with Scott R. Peterson, Dick's son, as company President.
Memorial donations in Mr. Peterson’s name may be made to the American Guild of Organists “New Organist Fund”, 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 1260, New York, NY 10115; agohq.org.