John Morris Russell
Consistently winning international praise for his extraordinary music-making and visionary leadership, John Morris Russell is in his eighth season as Music Director of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra and conductor of the prestigious Hilton Head International Piano Competition. Maestro Russell is also Conductor of the Cincinnati Pops, one of the world’s most iconic and beloved pops orchestras, and serves as Principal Pops Conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra following in the footsteps of Marvin Hamlisch and Doc Severinsen. He completed his eleven-year tenure as Music Director of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra in Ontario, Canada in 2012, whereupon he was named that orchestra’s first Conductor Laureate.
Under Mr. Russell’s leadership, the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra has enjoyed unprecedented artistic success. Concert attendance continues to blossom, and the HHSO has now doubled the number of concerts they present. Maestro Russell has sparked collaborations with regional ensembles and performers that continue to widen the reach of the orchestra, including Hilton Head Dance Theatre; choruses from Claflin University, Georgia Southern University and Charleston Southern University; the Savannah Youth Orchestra and Savannah Children’s Chorus, and the Lean Theatre Company. In addition, Mr. Russell has been actively involved in the development of the HHSO “Music Bridges” program, engaging thousands of school children from Blufton to Hilton Head Island in ensemble visits and full orchestra concerts, and integrating the musical culture of Gullah and Lowcountry traditions into presentations and programming.
With his position at the Cincinnati Pops, Mr. Russell leads sold-out performances at Music Hall, The Taft Theater, and the Riverbend Music Center; additionally, he conducts the orchestra in concerts throughout the Greater Cincinnati region as well as domestic and international tours. The Cincinnati Pops recorded legacy continues under Mr. Russell’s leadership, including Home for the Holidays (2012), Superheroes! (2013), Carnival of the Animals (2014), and the first live recording of the Pops, American Originals (2015). In November of 2018 the newest Pops recording American Originals: 1918 was released in honor of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and the beginning of the Jazz Age.
As a guest conductor, Mr. Russell has worked with many of North America’s most distinguished ensembles, leading major ensembles that have included the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Boston Pops to name a very few. He has conducted abroad as well and in December and January of this past season, he conducted a series of New Year’s concerts with the esteemed Suzhou Symphony Orchestra in China.
John Morris Russell 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.