“In her profound program, Ruiter-Feenstra demonstrated the power of music, both centuries old and newly composed, to address injustice and to offer opportunities for healing and reconciliation.”
-The American Organist, November 2022
Grammy-nominated performer Dr. Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra thrives as co-founder, coordinator, composer, and performer of Healing Bells. From their collaborative social justice and agency story-telling work, Ruiter-Feenstra and journalists Marielba Núñez and Jet Schouten founded Healing Bells. Internationally respected as an improvisation expert, recording artist, and award-winning composer, conductor, pedagogue, and author, she concertizes and teaches repertoire and improvisation on antique organs, carillons, harpsichords, and clavichords throughout North America and Europe, and strives to reveal the beautiful soul of each instrument. Ruiter-Feenstra's explorations as Senior Researcher with an international team at the Göteborg Organ Art Center in Sweden culminated in her acclaimed publications, Bach and the Art of Improvisation, in which she demystifies improvisation by scaffolding historical pedagogical steps that guarantee success. As Professor of Music at Eastern Michigan University, Ruiter-Feenstra conducted the Collegium Musicum, taught organ, harpsichord, and improvisation, and founded an annual Improvisation Symposium.
Several 2022 highlights: Ruiter-Feenstra co-chaired an international Diversity & Belonging: Unsung Keyboard Stories conference sponsored by the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies and the University of Michigan (U-M); performed story-telling works at the National Convention of the American Guild of Organists (Seattle); led the closing hymn festival featuring songs from around the world for the centennial conference of the Hymn Society (Washington, D.C.), presented and performed at porCausa's International Migration Congress for Journalists in Mérida, Spain; and collaborated on organ with the National Arab Orchestra. In 2019–2020, Ruiter-Feenstra initiated Global Rings in collaboration with the U-M Carillon Studio and Knight Wallace Fellow journalists, whom she mentored to compose and arrange works for the carillon. The goal of Global Rings, a new collection of carillon works based on folk tunes, stories, and issues from around the world, is to lift up underrepresented voices, diversify carillon repertoire, and engage broader audiences. Currently, Ruiter-Feenstra mentors U-M carillon students to improvise on diverse themes for the sequel, Global Rings Improvisation (forthcoming).
A passionate advocate for marginalized populations, Ruiter-Feenstra’s newest improvisations, compositions, musical plays, and poetry focus on social justice themes and collaborations. Her "When Justice Awakes" choral-organ anthem was commissioned for the dedication of Richards, Fowkes & Co. organ, Op. XXV. Her Liturgy Live organ collection, commissioned by Wyatt Smith, features world music themes. As a 2017–2019 recipient of a Ronald Barnes Scholarship grant from the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America, she interviewed individuals from Arab and Muslim, African American, Jewish, and Latina/o communities. Inspired by their stories, she composed four pieces in a collection entitled Belonging: A Carillon Call to Care for All, which she also arranged for organ. She composed "Yo También, Me Too..." and "Enough is Enough: Sketches" to ring out against violence, marginalization, and injustice and to lift up the voices of survivors. Her prizewinning "Peacemakers" was composed as an antidote to hate speech and actions and as a positive attribute to model to our children. Her "Healing Hands" lifts up all workers–custodians to cooks to surgeons–within health care facilities, and won first prize at the Mayo Clinic Carillon Composition Competition. In her Muse in Peace, Muse at Work, Muse for the Soul, and Muse at School collections, Ruiter-Feenstra offers children songs about world peacemakers, finding peace within, academic subjects, psalms and liturgical topics, and the building blocks of music theory and listening. Muse is Ruiter-Feenstra’s action to keep music in the schools, and to promote access to the arts among underserved populations. She chairs the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee for the Westfield Center for Historic Keyboard Studies, co-chairs the DEI Committee at the Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor, launched a series of eight articles on "Women in Improvisation" for The American Organist, and is an English editor for Organ Yearbook.
“Hers was perhaps the most adventurous programming of the convention – with three newly commissioned works, three pieces written either by Ruiter-Feenstra herself or in collaboration with others, and two other pieces from the 21st century…. The Tunder and Bach were free and improvisatory, with rich colors and precise, sparkling articulations. Ruiter-Feenstra is known for her improvisations in historical style, and this expertise infuses her playing of repertoire.”
-The American Organist, November 2022