David William Richardson, a former Social Security Administration manager who changed careers to become a jazz pianist and theatrical music director, was found dead June 21 at his Stoneleigh home. He was 55.
The cause of death had not been determined and is under investigation by the state medical examiner's office.
Born and raised in Silver Spring, Mr. Richardson was a 1968 graduate of Springbrook High School and earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park.
He worked for several years as a claims representative for Social Security in Wytheville, Va., and moved to Baltimore as a district manager of the downtown office. He retired from the government nearly six years ago.
Family members said he was a classically trained pianist who as a teen played keyboard with small rock bands and piano for local clubs and hotels.
"He composed an operetta when he was in the third grade," said his sister, Elizabeth F. Richardson of Rockville.
He was rehearsal pianist for singer Emmylou Harris in the late 1960s and was a Kennedy Center audition pianist.
"He was essentially a jazz pianist who followed his dream," said F. Scott Black, chairman of the Department of Fine Performing and Communication Arts at the Community College of Baltimore County. "He gave up his job at Social Security to become a full-time musician. He worked a lot. I'd go to a social function, and there he was doing cocktail piano music."
According to Mr. Richardson's Web site, he had been a musical director for more than 100 local shows, including a 1998 production of West Side Story at Anne Arundel's North County High School that was the subject of a series of articles in The Sun.
"He could play anything. You could put fly specks on a piece of paper in front of him and he could make music," said Todd Pearthree, a local theatrical director. "He loved playing. He had a great joy in what he did."
Mr. Richardson was also seen by local audiences as an on-stage musician. He played piano at Center Stage's production of Once On This Island that opened late last year. He was also featured at the Essex Community College Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre's production of Ain't Misbehavin' and at the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre in Applause.
"I especially enjoy accompanying singers, pro or amateur, and can almost always transpose to the right key, or help find the right key and the right song for everybody," he said on his Web site.
A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday at Idlewylde United Methodist Church, 1000 Regester Ave., where he was a member.
In addition to his sister, survivors include his wife of six years, Bridget Woodbury-Richardson; two sons, Michael Richardson of Korea and Paul Richardson of New York City; a daughter, Jacqueline Richardson of Austin, Texas; a stepson, Malcolm Woodbury of Stoneleigh; his mother, Faye Richardson Howell of Silver Spring; and another sister, Alice R. Hwang of Albuquerque, N.M. His marriage of nearly 20 years to Sheila Fitzpatrick ended in divorce.