Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Music



First Advisor

Alan L. Spurgeon

Second Advisor

John Leslie

Third Advisor

Andrew Paney

Relational Format



This study focuses on Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse and the history and organization of the New England Youth Ensemble (NEYE). Born in Lacombe, Canada in 1922, Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse was a violinist, pianist, composer, and notable music educator in the Seventh-day Adventist Church who established the New England Youth Ensemble in 1969. The ensemble has toured internationally since the early 1970s and it is the resident orchestra at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Maryland. The youth orchestra has played numerous times under the baton of John Rutter and has performed frequently in Carnegie Hall under the auspices of MidAmerica Productions. The author conducted interviews, analyzed videos and administered questionnaires. In addition, the researcher examined concert programs, which provided important details about how Dr. Rittenhouse operated. The researcher found that Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse used music as an agent of social change through her work with the NEYE. She mingled with the world and her flagship Adventist youth orchestra thrived as a result of her determination, drive, and the strategic manner in which she functioned. This research can benefit both musicians and directors of youth music groups alike. Music educators who follow this model should 1) form meaningful relationships, 2) partner with businesses, organizations, and philanthropists to enhance and sustain their music groups, and 3) maintain a strong presence in their communities. The relationships that Dr. Rittenhouse formed with people, organizations, and churches around the globe caused the ensemble to flourish and many lives have been forever changed as a result.


Emphasis: Music Education



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