Collaborate via Improvisation/Composition
Grammy-nominated performer Dr. Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra thrives as improvisation expert, international concert and 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, Volumes I–II. In Bach and the Art of Improvisation, Ruiter-Feenstra 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. In Symfonization, she develops orchestral improvisation studies in preparation for hearing, analyzing, and performing symphonic works at a deeper level of understanding and mastery.
As Visiting Carillonist & Carillon Instructor at the University of Michigan, 2019–2020, Ruiter-Feenstra initiated Global Rings in collaboration with the 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 audiences. In mentoring students and international journalists to tell stories through the carillon, Ruiter-Feenstra recognized that a new art form, or Collaborative Investigative Composition (CIC) developed. For CIC, she partners with individuals (in person or online) who wish to tell a story via a music composition (contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in CIC). Sometimes a story is censored, eclipsed by other events, forbidden, ignored, too difficult to be told in words alone, or can be told most effectively via the arts. Knowing that everyone’s story deserves to be told, Ruiter-Feenstra listens deeply, and individualizes an approach that optimizes each person’s voice.
A passionate advocate for marginalized populations, Ruiter-Feenstra’s newest improvisations, compositions, musical plays, and poetry focus on social justice themes and collaborations. 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 voices and life stories, she composed four pieces in a collection entitled Belonging: A Carillon Call to Care for All, which she is also arranging for organ. She composed "Our Time: Me Too" and "Enough is Enough: Sketches" to ring out against violence, marginalization, and injustice and to lift up the voices of survivors. The University of Michigan (U-M) Concert Band commissioned her to arrange "Our Time: Me Too" for band. Her prizewinning "Peacemakers" was composed as an antidote to hate speech and actions and as a positive attribute to model to our children. 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 underprivileged 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, co-chairs the U-M/Westfield Center “Diversity and Belonging: Unsung Keyboard Stories” conference committee, is launching a series of articles on "Women in Improvisation" for The American Organist, and is an English editor for Organ Yearbook.