Be the Change: Judi Richins – Teaching Music = Teaching Life

Numerous studies have shown that children who develop musical skills early in life often excel in other areas, such as math, language skills and spatial intelligence (the ability to perceive the world accurately and to form mental pictures of things).

It is often said that music is therapeutic. That is true for many people, but music can also be a passion or even a stepping stone toward greater understanding. Judi Richins, owner of Red Bluff School of the Music Arts, has seen proof of all of the above in her 44 years as a music teacher. Listening to music has been shown to have a positive effect on brain development and stimulation, but physically playing music takes this to another level. Judi says, “Learning to play music teaches people so many things—listening skills, discipline, dexterity, perseverance. Learning something of such complexity requires devotion and practice, practice, practice.”

For more than four decades Judi has taught hundreds of students of all ages from two years old to 92. She teaches piano, voice, trumpet and guitar. She has worked with toddlers thru Music & Motion type programs. She has coached choirs. She teaches senior citizens who now have the time and desire to either learn something new, or to pick up and relearn something that they let go years ago. Judi has had students decide to start at 87 years old. She has taught music in private schools, but now predominately teaches private lessons in her studio.

With her younger students Judi tries to get commitment from the parents to be an encouraging part of the learning process by (lovingly) being diligent about practice routines. Though it varies with each student, developing a practice schedule and making it “as routine a part of your day as brushing your teeth” is paramount to the success of the student. A parent must partner in driving this routine.

She is also gifted with the very rare trait called “perfect pitch” (only 0.0001% of the population has true perfect pitch), which means she can hear and identify nearly any note without a reference note. It also means that even if she is in the other room speaking with a parent, she can come back into the studio and correct her practicing student with something along the lines of “…in the second measure you played A-flat instead of G—make sure you make that stretch.”

Writer’s note—I spent more than a decade working in recording studios in Hollywood and Nashville, and even surrounded by the world’s most popular musicians, I only came across two other people with true perfect pitch. It is that rare of a gift.

Judi’s mother was a music teacher and she was immersed in music from her earliest days. Interestingly, it is teaching that is her real passion; music just happened to be something that she was good at. “What other kind of teacher gets to see and work with students for 5, 10, 13 years on a continual basis?” Judy asks.

She has recently taken teaching into other areas as well. After a student was interested in making dietary changes and asked her advice, Judi decided to teach that student about healthy living and nutrition. That encounter has turned into a select group that she calls “Just for the Health of It.” Judi says, “I’m kind of an all or nothing personality, so this has mushroomed into a group that teaches healthy eating habits and goes hiking and backpacking and so much more.” A woman of many talents…though she hasn’t added it (yet) to her teaching repertoire, Judi has also developed a keen eye for photography.

What do you get out of serving your community?

“I grew up going to rest homes and hospitals playing different instruments for people going through hard times. I still, occasionally, pop in to local rest homes to play some music for folks in hopes of bringing a ray of joy to them for a moment. I highly recommend it! Besides the smile you may bring to a sad face, you will feel the smile inside of you, as well. Music equals great therapy for people receiving it and maybe even more for those giving it.”

What inspires you about teaching music to older students?

“We are about more than music here. It’s about learning and connecting and support so at least some part of our mental, physical or emotional lives will be made better in some way. As we age, we now realize that learning is not a race or a competition but it is important to never stop learning and discovering new things.”  

The mission of our Be the Change column is to feature community members from the North State who are actively making a difference in community life. If you would like to nominate someone who is making a difference, please write to

Michael Orr
About Michael Orr

Michael Orr is a Father, writer, reader, science geek and musician who lives, works & plays in Paradise, California

Comment Policy: All viewpoints are welcome, but comments should remain relevant. Personal attacks, profanity, and aggressive behavior are not allowed. No spam, advertising, or promoting of products/services. Please, only use your real name and limit the amount of links submitted in your comment.

Leave a Reply