Elena Ruehr has been called a “composer to watch” by Opera News, and her music has been described as “stunning...beautifully lighted by [a] canny instinct for knowing when and how to vary key, timbre, and harmony” by The Boston Globe.
Dr. Ruehr grew up in Michigan’s isolated Upper Peninsula, where her musical training began at home with her mother, who sang and played the guitar. Her father, a mathematician, played jazz piano. She began playing piano and composing at age four, and later studied modern dance. Her town of 4,000 was also home to Finnish kantele player and classical composer Melvin Kangas, whom Dr. Ruehr counts as her earliest mentor. She then studied with William Bolcom at the University of Michigan and Vincent Persichetti at The Juilliard School. In addition to her classical studies, she played in the University of Michigan Gamelan and studied West African drumming.
Recently, she has written two string quartets for the Cypress String Quartet. In 2005, she wrote her String Quartet No. 4 for the ensemble, and The Washington Post called it “music with heart and...a forceful sense of character and expression.” Her second quartet for the group, Bel Canto, is based on Ann Patchett’s novel of the same title and will be premiered in February 2010 in San Francisco. In addition to the Cypress, advocates for her music include the Borromeo String Quartet, the Shanghai String Quartet, and baritone Stephen Salters.
A faculty member at M.I.T. since 1991, Dr. Ruehr has lectured at Princeton University, Boston College, Boston Conservatory, Longy School of Music, Berklee School of Music, Eastman School of Music, and Oberlin Conservatory, and was a fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute, Yaddo, and the Aspen Center for Compositional Studies.