Dixie Ritchie Cramer
Dixie Ritchie Cramer, singer, pianist, and teacher, has enjoyed a career teaching music at all levels, from pre-school through secondary students. She has successfully approached the challenge of teaching music creatively through the use of sophisticated and innovative programs.
Dixie was born in Toppenish, Washington, one of four children and the younger of two daughters of David John and Donna Jendresen Ritchie. Music was a way of life since both her parents were amateur musicians who had a high level of innate musicianship and loved to sing. They joined with their children from their earliest years in singing and making music. Three of the children pursued music and two of them would become teachers.
Dixie began making music at age four, when she started playing the piano by ear. At age six she taught herself to read music using her siblings' John Thompson Piano Method books. When she was seven and attempting her own arrangements, her mother taught her some basic chords, which led to her gaining skill in improvising and embellishing by ear.
By age nine she had worked her way through the church hymnal and the youth hymnal and, for the first time, her family was in a location where she could start piano lessons, which continued intermittently through her years at Platte Valley Academy. She found piano lessons with Union College professor Naomi Jungling to be particularly helpful. The instruction from Jungling and in later years with college level teachers Melva Cummimgs, Sandra Camp, and Debra Bakland helped her become a more refined and musically insightful performer.
Following graduation from Platte Valley Academy in Nebraska in 1973, Dixie enrolled at Union College as a social work major but after two years changed to music, completing a B.S. in music education in 1979 with voice as her performance area. She accepted leadership of choral/vocal music at Auburn Adventist Academy in Washington state upon graduation and taught there for the next four years. She then attended the University of Iowa, completing an M.A. in vocal performance in 1986.
At that time, Ritchie became the music teacher at Paradise Adventist School, a twelve-grade school in California, where she taught for five years and then taught as a substitute for one year as an interim teacher in a public high school in Fort Bragg. At the end of that year, she decided to pursue her dream of being a self-employed music educator, took training in Kindermusik, and then moved to Walla Walla, Washington, to be near her older sister, Dodie, and Dodie's family.
In 1992 Ritchie started teaching piano and voice while developing a successful pre-school music program in nearby College Place that incorporated Kindermusik, a national program with materials and an approach designed exclusively for the very young (newborn to age seven) and their families. In 1997 she quit teaching piano and voice to devote all of her efforts to the pre-school music studio.
Even though the studio was located in a small community with a regional population of 50,000, within ten years she was teaching over 140 students ranging in age from four weeks to seven years in her studio and in other pre-schools in the area. Although she described the program at that time as "the most satisfying teaching experience I have ever had," it was not financially viable because of overhead expenses. In 2004, while still running the program, she became aware of Simply Music, a program developed in Australia that involves a multi-sensory approach to teaching and playing the piano.
She started training in that program in the winter of 2005 and incorporated it into her studio over the next three years. Her success in this new endeavor decreased her time for the other program, which she retired in 2008. Today she has an ongoing wait list of those who wish to study Simply Music with her.
The Simply Music concept had started when its founder, Australian piano teacher Neil Moore, began to explore ways in which he could teach an eight-year-old blind student. In the process of meeting this challenge he developed a multi-sensory approach that was not only successful for the visually impaired student but also proved to be a breakthrough approach for students of all ages and abilities. Dixie's sister, who had studied piano as a young child, also became interested in the program and now has a private studio in her home, where she enjoys teaching piano students in spite of being blind since the age of twenty from diabetic retinopathy.
In 1992, while living in Walla Walla, Ritchie became acquainted with Casey Cramer, a resident of Michigan, through Adventist Contact. Their relationship developed over the next year and a half, and they married in July 1994. They now reside in Walla Walla, Washington.
Ritchie frequently sings as a soloist, is active in local community and church choral organizations, and has assisted in providing music for non-Adventist churches as a pianist or choir director since graduating from college. Currently, she is a pianist at Assumption Catholic Church in Walla Walla. She and Casey are members of the Walla Walla Choral Society and also sing in the Village SDA church choir in College Place.
Most recently she developed an interest in composing and wrote a choral composition, Stand by Me, Jesus, a work in a gospel-jazz idiom. It was premiered successfully by the Walla Walla High School Concert Choir in May 2013.
Sources: Interview, conversations, and email exchanges, 2003, March 2012, and December 2013; personal knowledge.