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The 2013/2014 marked John Morris Russell’s third full season as Conductor of the Cincinnati Pops, one of Cincinnati’s most treasured assets and one of the world’s most respected pops orchestras. Consistently winning international praise for his extraordinary music-making and visionary leadership, he is also Music Director of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, in Hilton Head, South Carolina. He completed his role as Music Director of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra in Ontario, Canada at the end of the 11/12 season whereupon he was named that orchestra’s first Conductor Laureate.
With his position at the Pops, Mr. Russell leads performances at Cincinnati’s Music Hall and the Riverbend Music Center; additionally he conducts the orchestra in concerts throughout the Greater Cincinnati region as well as on tour—serving as a musical ambassador to help cultivate the reputation of the Cincinnati region as one of the world’s leading cultural centers. No stranger to Cincinnati audiences, for many seasons John Morris Russell served as Associate Conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He was recognized for his innovative programming and commitment to attracting new and diverse audiences to orchestral music, creating the Classical Roots: Spiritual Heights series, which brought the music of African-American composers and performers to thousands of listeners in area churches, and was also the co-creator of the Christmas spectacular, Home for the Holidays . He has had two recordings released with the Cincinnati Pops: Home for the Holidays and Superheroes!
As a guest conductor, Mr. Russell has worked with many of North America’s most distinguished ensembles, leading Canadian orchestras that include Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria, Kitchener-Waterloo and Orchestra London. In the US he has conducted the orchestras of Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Dallas, Louisville, Miami’s New World Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, Oregon Symphony, Colorado Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, New York Pops, New York City Ballet, New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, and the Cleveland Orchestra at the Blossom Music Festival. Abroad he conducted at the famed Musikverein in Vienna in a concert that featured the Harlem Boychoir, the Vienna Choir Boys and the actor Gregory Peck. The performance continues to be televised throughout Europe, Japan and in the USA on PBS.
2011-2012 marked Mr. Russell’s eleventh and final season as Music Director of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra. While at Windsor he fostered a decade of unprecedented artistic growth and invigorated the musical life of the Windsor-Essex region. Under John Morris Russell’s baton, the WSO made seventeen national broadcasts on CBC Radio 2; the most recent broadcast recording of Aurora Borealis by Jordon Nobles, was selected to represent Canada in June, 2010 in the 57th annual International Rostrum of Composers in Lisbon, Portugal. The WSO’s first nationally televised production was created with Mr. Russell for the CBC Television series Opening Night, and subsequently won the Gold Worldmedal for “Best Performance Program” at the New York Festivals Awards for Television and New Media, as well as a Gemini Award Nomination. In 2006 the Windsor Symphony Orchestra released Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf narrated by the internationally acclaimed actor, Colm Feore, and Last Minute Lulu, composed by WSO Composer-in-Residence, Brent Lee, with text by the Newbery Medal winning author, Christopher Paul Curtis. The recording won Mr. Russell and the WSO its first Juno nomination for Best Children’s Album in 2008. Mr. Russell helped nurture many new voices in Canadian music, conducting numerous Windsor premiers of important Canadian works and over 45 world premiers of commissioned compositions. He created the WSO’s first multi-year composer-in-residence position, and was deeply involved in the production of the annual Windsor Canadian Music Festival, described by CBC producer David Jaeger as, “one of the most exciting and innovative developments to appear lately in the Canadian musical scene.” A two-time recipient of Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor’s Award for the Arts, as well as the Ontario Arts Council’s Vida Peene Award for Artistic Excellence, in 2010 Mr. Russell received the prestigious Herb Gray Harmony Award by the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County, in recognition of the WSO's programming and outreach activities. In October of 2010 he was honored as the first recipient of the Arts Leadership Award by the Windsor Endowment for the Arts, in recognition of the enormous contribution he has made to the region's cultural life. And in the spring of 2011 the University of Windsor awarded John Morris Russell an Honorary Doctor of Law degree.
John Morris Russell is widely considered one of North America's leaders in orchestral educational programming. From 1997 to 2009 he conducted the “LinkUP!” educational concert series at Carnegie Hall, the oldest and most celebrated series of its kind, created by Walter Damrosch in 1891 and made famous by Leonard Bernstein. The "Sound Discoveries" series Mr. Russell developed with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra remains a leading model for educational concerts. In Windsor, his commitment to education was evidenced by his creation of concert series and projects that included Peanut Butter n’ Jam, Family Jamboree and One Community—One Symphony plus he spearheaded the creation of The Windsor-Essex Youth Choir and the Windsor Symphony Youth Orchestra.
John Morris Russell has also served as associate conductor of the Savannah Symphony Orchestra, director of the orchestral program at Vanderbilt University, and music director with the College Light Opera Company in Falmouth, Massachusetts. He received a Master of Music degree in conducting from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from Williams College in Massachusetts. He has also studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, and the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors in Hancock, Maine.