John Morris Russell

John Morris Russell’s embrace of America’s unique voice and musical stories has transformed how orchestral performances connect and engage with audiences. The wide-range and diversity of his work with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra as a conductor, collaborator and educator invigorates the musical scene in Cincinnati and beyond. Mr. Russell is Music Director of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra and the Hilton Head International Piano Competition. He has served as Principal Pops Conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and as Music Director of Ontario’s Windsor Symphony Orchestra from 2001-2012.

A popular guest conductor, Mr. Russell has worked with the leading North American orchestras including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Toronto Symphony and New York Philharmonic, the Boston Pops and the National Symphony. 

For over a decade, Mr. Russell has regularly led the National Orchestral Institute and Festival in College Park, Maryland, one of the nation’s premiere training orchestras. Dedicated to sharing the American musical experience with the newest generation of players, he helped develop and conducted the LinkUP! Educational concert series at Carnegie Hall; and has cultivated dynamic educational programs with the Symphony Orchestras of Cincinnati, Windsor, and Hilton Head.

For over two decades, he has led the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s wildly successful Classical Roots initiative honoring and celebrating Black musical excellence, which has garnered record-breaking in-person and online audiences.

Mr. Russell’s seven recordings with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra include 2023’s holiday album JOY! And the landmark recordings in the “American Originals Project”: American Originals (the music of Stephen Foster); and the GRAMMY® nominated American Originals 1918 (a tribute to the dawn of the jazz age).

John Morris Russell earned degrees from the University of Southern California and Williams College and has 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.

November 2023

Please note: Biographies are based on information provided to the CSO by the artists or their representatives. More current information may be available on websites of the artists or their management.