Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra - liturgical musician, author, composer, historic keyboardist, pedagogue, improvisateur, conductor

 

As with life and love, music-making needs not be unduly complicated to be profound. It simply requires soul.

 

Dr. Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra describes the context for her musical journey: “I feel fortunate to have grown up in a Dutch immigrant family that valued God, work, education, and supported my early interests in music by providing piano, organ, violin, voice, choral, orchestral, and classical guitar lessons. Having played hymns and liturgy since elementary school, I’ve learned to create harmony within and with the world. As a lifelong church musician, service playing, conducting, and liturgical life permeates every aspect of my musicianship, pedagogy, and personhood.

 

My traditional education brought me through three degrees in organ performance and pedagogy, choral music education, and emphases in music theory, sacred music, and conducting at Dordt College (BA with Joan Ringerwole and Dale Grotenhuis) and the University of Iowa (MFA, DMA with Delbert Disselhorst and Delores Bruch). From the moment I first played an historic keyboard instrument, I was magnetically and insatiably drawn to study far beyond degrees, and experience the extraordinary historic instruments in Europe, particularly in North Germany (post-doctoral work with Harald Vogel), the Netherlands, Sweden, and Italy, as well as their liturgical contexts.”

 

 From 1996–2002, Ruiter-Feenstra served as Senior Researcher at the Göteborg (Sweden) Organ Art Center (www.goart.gu.se), learning much about historic keyboard instrument construction, sound, and music from colleagues and instruments, teaching improvisation and clavichord courses at Göteborg University, and launching research on Bach and improvisation. She performs on historic instruments throughout North America and Europe, and teaches improvisation and presents at events around the world, including the Smarano (Italy) International Improvisation & Clavichord Academy (www.eccher.it), Göteborg International Organ Academy, American Guild of Organists events (www.agohq.org), Westfield Center conferences (www.westfield.music.cornell.edu), the Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative (www.rochester.edu/eroi), and the Amsterdam-based Orgelpark (www.orgelpark.nl).

 

As Professor of Music at Bethany College, Lindsborg, Kansas (1989–1996) and Eastern Michigan University (1996–2008), Ruiter-Feenstra taught organ, harpsichord, theory, improvisation, sacred music, and directed the Collegium Musicum. Her long tenure in academia convinced her that a more integrated inter- and multi-disciplinary approach would better equip music students and church musicians to take ownership of their learning for a lifetime of curiosity and application, and foster healthy collaborations and creative solutions. In 2008, Ruiter-Feenstra chose to leave institutional work in favor of freelancing as performer, pedagogue, author, composer, and recording artist. A founding member of Voci dell’Anima, she conducts and collaborates choral and chamber ensembles. She is one of a select prestigious group of Fleur de Son Classics artists (www.fleurdeson.com), where her Bach’s Teacher Böhm and Improvisation and Froberger on the 1658 De Zentis Harpsichord CDs are available. Her Bach and Improvisation and Tunder Organ Works CDs are on the Loft-Gothic label (www.gothic-catalog.com).

 

PHOTO CREDIT: jenniferilenephotography.com

Ruiter-Feenstra tells how “the world opened up to me through having and working with children, traveling to sensorial lands including Ethiopia, the birthplace of our daughter, and by launching creative projects, such as liturgical and improvisation events, books (Bach and the Art of Improvisation, Muse in Peace, Muse at School, Muse for the Soul, Muse at Work, and Improvisation Endeavors), articles, compositions, and CDs in love.”