Ruth Pelham is a singer, songwriter and educator who brings to the world a fresh vision of world peace and social change. Whether performing in concert, teaching children to build homemade musical instruments, writing songs with old people in nursing homes or participating in international arts exchanges, Ruth’s music touches the heart and reflects the full integrity of the human spirit.
Born in 1949 in Brooklyn, New York, city life was full with street games and the rhythms of ethnic music in the air. Family singalongs in the car and summertime campfire hootenannies introduced Ruth to the progressive music of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Malvina Reynolds and Paul Robeson. At seven, Ruth began classical piano lessons. While no one else was home, she would begin her practice sessions complete with a grand entrance, sweep down the stairs and introduce herself and her songs to an imaginary audience. Afternoons were spent with friends lip-synching the words to ‘50’s rock and roll songs and dreaming about becoming a folksinger when she grew up.
During the turbulent Vietnam era, Ruth attended the University of Wisconsin where she came into her own as a feminist and an activist. Songwriting became her vehicle to speak out against injustice and to raise her voice with sisters and brothers around the globe for a new vision of peace and harmony in the world.
Along with her work as director of Music Mobile, Inc., Ruth and her songs are increasingly impacting on the world of contemporary folk music. Acclaimed by the legendary folksinger Pete Seeger as “one of America’s greatest songwriters,” Ruth is hailed as the composer of some of the finest folk songs of this decade. Known for their superbly crafted lyrics and exceedingly singable melodies, Ruth’s songs embody the spirit of community - a theme that weaves its way through her diverse repertoire.
Ruth’s performances of her own songs have been described by audiences and critics alike as “exuberant...charismatic...exceptional.” Combining her spontaneous commentary on contemporary issues with expert skill in generating audience participation, Ruth’s songs and spirit create an atmosphere that can make a room full of strangers feel more like a gathering of longtime friends and family.
Ruth’s songs are recorded and performed by well over thirty musicians including Pete Seeger and Ronnie Gilbert of the historic folksinging group, The Weavers, Holly Near, Peggy Seeger, Guy Carawan, Betsy Rose and Si Kahn to name just a few. With a keen ability to give simple, forthright expression to concerns that are broad and universal in scope, Ruth’s songs, like “The Activity Room,” “I Cried,” “Under One Sky,” “Look To The People,” and “I Am A Woman” stand as testimony to her unique artistry as a songwriter.
Her songs are published in numerous national folk music and education publications and journals including Sing Out! The Folk Song Magazine, Rise Up Singing: The Group Singing Songbook, Pass It On! The National Journal of the Children’s Music Network, and Children’s Songs For A Friendly Planet.
Recordings of Ruth’s music include Collage: A Collection of Songs About Women; Under One Sky which is recommended for children by Teaching Tolerance, Parents’ Magazine and Mothering; and Look To The People, Ruth’s album on Flying Fish Records.
Ruth’s longtime work to improve the lives of children and families has led to her recognition as a featured “hero” in WTEN-TV’s documentary, “Children First: Everyday Heroes.” In addition, the Albany Area Chapter of the National Organization for Women presented her with a “Making Waves Award” for her work on behalf of women.
In 1997, Ruth was inducted into the Capital Area Music Association’s Hall of Fame in recognition of her “achievements in music and contributions to the cultural quality of the Capital Region.” She also received a 1997 Arts Award from the Albany/Schenectady League of Arts for her “outstanding contributions to the Capital Region’s arts community through creation, presentation, and support of the arts.”
In 1998, Ruth’s founding and development of Music Mobile, Inc. was featured in a documentary, “Music Mobile: The Beat Of The Street” co-produced by WMHT public television and Music Mobile, Inc. The documentary celebrates how people’s lives are changed and communities flourish through Music Mobile’s pioneering work in neighborhood arts, education, and empowerment.
On a national level, Ruth’s accomplishments include performing at the first ever Stand For Children march and rally in Washington, D.C. which was organized by the Children’s Defense Fund. She has also co-authored the book, Open Ears: Musical Adventures for a New Generation, along with Pete Seeger, Phoebe Snow, Paul McCartney, Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead, Shari Lewis, and other musicians from around the world. In addition, she has recently co-produced Voices of the Canyon, a cassette tape of songs and stories by children of the Havasupai Tribe who live in a remote area of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Also, she is a co-founder and member of the board of directors of the Children’s Music Network.
With a voice and vision that have earned her the affection and trust of audiences young and old alike, Ruth’s music touches our common heart and renews our hope for humanity's ability to grow toward a lasting world peace.