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Ramsier, born in Louisville, Kentucky, showed promise as a pianist at the age of five and began composing at nine. At sixteen, he entered the University of Louisville School of Music. His graduate studies included piano with Beveridge Webster at the Juilliard School and composition with Ernő Dohnányi at Florida State University. In his early career in New York City, he was a staff pianist with the New York City Ballet where he was influenced by Balanchine and Stravinsky. During that period he studied composition with Alexei Haieff.
Ramsier's output includes orchestral, opera, choral, instrumental and chamber works, but his best known contribution to contemporary music is his body of work for the double bass, which has established him as a major figure in the development of the instrument. His renowned double bass compositions include four works with orchestra beginning with the landmark Divertimento Concertante on a Theme of Couperin. The Divertimento Concertante and two subsequent works, Road to Hamelin and Eusebius Revisited, have since become bass standards and are regarded as the most-performed compositions for bass and orchestra since 1965.
There have been well over 150 such performances with orchestral ensembles including the: Chicago Symphony, Toronto Symphony, London Symphony Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Melbourne (Australia) Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Puerto Rico Symphony, Montevideo Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, Columbus Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Israel Sinfonia, Louisville Orchestra, Istanbul State Symphony, Florida Symphony, Atlantic Symphony, Basel Symphony, Zurich Chamber Orchestra, McGill Chamber Orchestra, and I Musici de Montreal.
Among his other compositions, a one-act opera, The Man on the Bearskin Rug, is well-known and frequently performed, as is another large bass work, Silent Movie for solo double bass with strings and harp.
Ramsier taught composition at New York University and the Ohio State University. After earning a Ph.D., he turned his attention to the study of psychoanalysis, and has since pursued a double career: psychotherapy and musical composition. Dr. Ramsier currently composes and practices psychotherapy in Sarasota, Florida.