The American pianist, Ruth Slenczynska's father, Joseph Slenczynski, was a well-known violinist, who imposed a rigorous and disciplinary practice routine on her beginning at age three. She began her piano studies in Europe at age four and took lessons with Artur Schnabel, Egon Petri, Alfred Cortot, Joseph Hofmann, and even performed for Sergei Rachmaninov. She performed her debut in Berlin at age 6, and made her debut in Paris with a full orchestra at age 11. She became an instant musical sensation in Europe, heralded as the first child prodigy since Mozart. However, the strain of practice and the touring schedule imposed upon her by her father caused great emotional stress upon her, and by the age of fifteen she withdrew from performing.
Ruth Slenczynska applied and was accepted to the University of California where she met fellow student George Born. The two eloped after a short engagement in 1944 and remained married until 1953 when the marriage ended in divorce. In 1954 she resumed her concert career and established herself as a pianist of impeccable technique and considerable musical insight. In 1964 she accepted a full time position at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville as Artist- in-Residence, a title she retained until 1987. She married in 1967 to Dr. James Kerr, a professor of political science at SIUE. She published a book of memoirs, Forbidden Childhood (New York, 1957), which deals with life as a child prodigy, and a book on piano technique, Music at Your Fingertips: Aspects of Pianoforte Technique (New York, 1961).