For many, many years, Richard Ford was a tremendous supporter of the American Pianists Association with both his financial resources and his great love of classical piano music.
Having served as President of the Board (1993 – 1997), he maintained his involvement with APA’s classical pianists throughout the years. Mr. Ford engaged APA Fellows in concerts at the Honeywell Center in Wabash, Indiana, and in recitals at the Honeywell House, in addition to his own Wabash home and at his lake house. Mr. Ford was the consummate host, quietly entertaining his family and friends and serving lovely dinners after intimate performances by APA Fellows. He also kept in close contact with former Fellows by visiting them in their home cities as he traveled the country and abroad and was constantly connecting them with new people who could be supportive.
Prior to each round of the Classical Fellowship Awards, Mr. Ford hosted a pre-competition symposium at either his home or the lake house. In addition to ones’ musical talents, he expected APA’s young musicians to be able to navigate the social expectations of stardom, including hosting and being hosted in private homes. Richard modeled the ideal host, providing a convivial and relaxing atmosphere for the musicians, while maintaining a rigorous decorum. 1985 Classical Fellow Frederic Chiu tells of the free artistic rein given him by Mr. Ford during the several-day workshops to which all five finalists of the Classical Fellowship Awards were invited. Some of the subjects that Mr. Chiu covered were meditation, memory, dealing with and learning to embrace inevitable mistakes, learning a piece without practicing, and coming to terms with the consequences of going through that experience.
Mr. Chiu expressed his deep sadness at Mr. Ford’s passing this way, “One of the things that I always discover when performing in a community where the music audience is very enthusiastic is that there is always one person behind it. And Richard was that person. Having such a long and fruitful relationship with him, I had the privilege of coming time after time to Wabash. Each time Richard would show me the plans for his next project, until finally he had transformed the topography and use of his surroundings–creating trails, a waterfall, and a museum. Richard’s quiet perseverance and his organizational abilities combined to focus his resources on those things about which he was most passionate. Wabash and the music world will miss him acutely.”
Spencer Myer, the 2006 Christel DeHaan Classical Fellow offers his condolences to friends and family this way, “I first met Richard Ford during my time as a finalist for the 2000 American Pianists Association Classical Fellowship Awards. Richard held a ‘trial run’ performance for the five finalists’ last programs of the competition at his home in Wabash. I was immediately struck by his generosity and warmth, all fueled by his great love for music and for the piano. He engaged in conversation with each of the five of us with equal interest, and his ability to make one feel as if he/she were the only person in the room was evident. During my subsequent returns to Wabash I felt equally welcome, and always felt this was a priority for Richard. The continued life of the classical arts depends on individuals like Richard Ford, and he obviously took great joy in his love and support of the arts. Each time I sit down to play the piano, I feel as if I am carrying on the legacy of, and paying tribute to, music lovers like Richard. I am grateful for his life every day.”
– Helen Small, Former President and CEO of the American Pianists Association (1997 – 2008)
Richard E. Ford
75, Wabash, passed away. Memorial Service: 1 PM May 8 at the Honeywell Center, Wabash, with calling from 3-8 PM May 7 at Grandstaff-Hentgen Funeral Service, Wabash.