Richard Lloyd Baxt
Richard Lloyd Baxt, widely known as “Richie” to musicians across the New York City music scene has been a champion of musicians for over 40 years. He has long recognized and empathized with musicians who have succumbed to the ravages of mental illness, depression, suicide, alcoholism, and drug use—all of which have increased during the pandemic with the diminished availability of performance venues. Richie’s long held conviction to assisting musicians through affordable maintenance and refurbishment of their instruments manifested in his founding of Richie’s Guitar Shop in 1978—a staple of the East Village and a beacon to musicians for decades. Prior to opening the shop, Richie’s journey had taken numerous turns from studying electronics in high school and electronic engineering in college, to earning his B.A. from City College. Desiring a career with rich human interaction, Richie went on to earn a M.A. in Sociology and Criminology from Brooklyn College leading to 31 years of blending social work with police work in the NYC Department of Probation—“kind of like being a tough social worker”. Richie’s music career began with acapella singing in the 1950s; playing the bass—both upright and electric; and Rock & Roll. He eventually found his way into music repair, as “a hobby” that started with repairing his adopted stepson’s guitars “out of self-defense to save money on the repairs”, and he’s been walking this path ever since. Along the way Richie has faced and persevered through numerous Medical challenges. He developed Tuberculosis from exposure to infected prisoners in 1976 and was given a prognosis of 6 months to live. In response, Richie joined the New York Road Runners Club, and ran several NYC Marathons! Diagnosed in 2005 with Polycythemia Vera, a rare type of incurable blood cancer, Richie has sustained ongoing chemotherapy treatments to stave off the illness well beyond the 18-month prognosis he originally received. The life-sustaining chemotherapy has delivered numerous side-effects including Erthyromelagia that causes chronic pain of the hands, feet, and legs. Declared legally blind in 2019, Richie’s perseverance through illness has kept him serving the music community and the musicians he loves. We’re ever grateful for his generosity in providing annual maintenance to the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine’s fleet of guitars, which has allowed hundreds of patients from across our hospitals to receive music therapy. As we honor Richie with the 2021 What a Wonderful World Award, we think it fitting to highlight his personal philosophy, “to be a person you have to do a good thing every day, and if you forget…do two things the next day”.