Gateway to Service….. Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

Music: Dr. Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse


Dr. Rittenhouse passed away on August 30, 2011. Her biography remains here in grateful appreciation for her life and her tremendous contribution to Washington Adventist University.

Professor of Music
B.A. University of Washington
M.M., Boston University
D.M.A., Peabody Institute Johns Hopkins University


Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse, founding director of the New England Youth Ensemble, is a concert violinist, pianist, composer, and conductor. Born in Canada, Rittenhouse spent her early years in South Africa where she wrote her first composition at the age of three. At age six she began formal studies on both piano and violin. Soon recognized as a remarkable prodigy she debuted performing her own piano compositions in a network radio broadcast at age ten. Three years later Rittenhouse was accepted as a scholarship student at the University of South Africa where her teachers championed her throughout the nation soloing with every major orchestra in South Africa.

In 1944 Rittenhouse graduated summa cum laude from the University of Washington and began teaching at Walla Walla College, now University, the following year. In 1946 she relocated to Atlantic Union College, teaching there until 1954, obtaining a Masters of Music from Boston University. In 1963 Rittenhouse became the first person to be granted the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Peabody Institute of Music, earning it in both violin and piano performance.

After several years in Jamaica, where her husband Harvey, a surgeon, practiced medicine they returned to Massachusetts where, in 1969, Rittenhouse founded the world-renown New England Youth Ensemble (NEYE). In 1994 Rittenhouse and the NEYE relocated to the campus of Columbia Union College (now Washington Adventist University) and took up performing residence there. Under her direction, the NEYE has become recognized as one of the most internationally recognized and traveled youth orchestras in America, and through the professional mentorship of the Carnegie Program at Washington Adventist University, members of the NEYE regularly appear on stage at the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and Avery Fisher Hall.

Rittenhouse has appeared as a recitalist and soloist with orchestras throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, South Africa, and the Far East. As late as 2003 she performed as violin soloist her own Jamaican Suite for Violin and Piano at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie with the Jamaican piano virtuoso, Orrett Rhoden. She has won countless awards, including the London Associated Board Overseas Scholarship, the New York Concert Artists Guild Award, the International Music Guild Award, and the New York Madrigal Society Town Hall Award.

In April 2004, her oratorio entitled The Vision of the Apocalypse, received its premier by the NESE and Columbia Union Collegiate Chorale on Perlman Stage with herself narrating, James Bingham, and Preston Hawes as Concertmaster. Having begun portions of the work when she was only twelve years of age, this critically acclaimed premier was the culmination of a lifetime of work.

Rittenhouse’s teachers include Leon Fleisher, Louis Persinger, and Nadia Boulanger. She has had additional studies at the Juilliard School and the Ecole d’Arts Américaine at Fontainbleau. She continues as Artistic Director of the New England Symphonic Ensemble while on faculty of Washington Adventist University.