Richard Walter was born and raised in Elkhart, Indiana, recognized as “the band instrument capital of the world” for its woodwind and brasswind manufacturing through much of the twentieth century. He earned his bachelor’s degree in anthropology and archaeology from Washington & Lee University and his master’s and PhD degrees in ethnomusicology and folklore from Indiana University. Owning and operating The Ruse coffeehouse showed Walter the value of sharing live music with the local community, while working on digital audio preservation at Indiana University’s Archives of Traditional Music exposed him to the full history of recorded sound technologies as well as to ethnographic field recordings collected from around the world. A variety of teaching positions at both Butler University and Indiana University encouraged him to adopt new strategies for communicating the value of art and music in peoples’ lives.
Walter’s own musicianship began with lazy piano lessons, followed by years of diligent trumpet playing. More recently, he has played banjo, mandolin, and guitar in a variety of bands and genres throughout southern Indiana. In 2014, he was awarded the Kentucky State Bluegrass Banjo Championship.
MIM represents an ideal intersection where Walter’s interests in material culture, musical traditions, and human interactions from around the world are explored and celebrated every day. With particular interests in American vernacular music and associated instruments, he is primarily focused on MIM’s North American collections and exhibits.