Richard H. (Dick) Peterson, 1925-2009


Richard H. Peterson

Peterson Electro-Musical Products Inc. in Alsip, Ill., suffered a great loss early in this year with the passing of its founder, Richard H. (Dick) Peterson (pictured). After a 14-year-long bout with a debilitating illness, Peterson 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, Peterson visited Radio City Music Hall and heard the room-filling sound of its theater pipe organ. It was then that he realized his life calling and dedicated his existence to “perfecting" the pipe organ.

In 1948, Peterson co-founded the Haygren Church Organ Company in Chicago and soon thereafter founded Peterson Electro- Musical Products. For nearly 20 years, much of his time was devoted to developing and improving the Gulbransen line of electronic church and theater 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., 50 years earlier.

Peterson also created a family of musical instrument strobe tuners that are now familiar to school band students, professional musicians and musical instrument manufacturers. Peterson mechanical strobe tuners are said to be the standard for touring musicians and recording studios.

Besides spending time with his devoted wife of 53 years, Carol, and with his other family members, Peterson's greatest passion was applying modern technology to pipe organ building. His goal was always to make organs better, more affordable and more available for people to enjoy. During his long and prolific career, he was awarded more than 70 patents.

Peterson Electro-Musical Products Inc. remains a family owned and operated business with Scott R. Peterson, Dick Peterson's son, as company president. The company welcomes comments and recollections of Dick's life from his industry friends. For more information, visit

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, N.Y. 10115;