John Morris Russell

A master of American musical style, Grammy-nominated conductor John Morris Russell, a.k.a. “JMR,” has devoted himself to redefining the American orchestral experience. In his 11th year as conductor of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Russell continues to reinvigorate the musical scene throughout Cincinnati and across the continent with the wide range and diversity of his work as a conductor, collaborator and educator.

As music director of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra in South Carolina, Russell leads the prestigious Hilton Head International Piano Competition. As principal pops conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, he follows in the footsteps of Marvin Hamlisch and Doc Severinsen. Guest conducting engagements have included many of the most distinguished orchestras in North America, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Pops, National Symphony and the orchestras of Toronto, Vancouver, Dallas, Detroit and Pittsburgh.

With the Cincinnati Pops, Russell leads sold-out performances at the Music Hall and concerts throughout the region, as well as domestic and international tours, including Florida in 2014 and China/Taiwan in 2017. His visionary leadership at the Pops created the “American Originals Project,” which has garnered critical and popular acclaim via two landmark recordings: “American Originals Project (The Music of Stephen Foster),” as well as “American Originals: 1918.” In 2020, the “American Originals Project: The Cincinnati Sound,” featuring “Late Night with David Letterman” musical director Paul Shaffer, celebrated the beginnings of bluegrass, country, rockabilly, soul and funk as immortalized in recordings produced in the Queen City.

Russell’s other recordings with the Pops include “Home for the Holidays,” “Superheroes,” “Carnival of the Animals” and “Voyage.” Recent collaborations with artists around the world include Emanuel Ax, Amy Grant and Vince Gill, Common, Garrick Ohlsson, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jon Kimura Parker, Ann Hampton Callaway, Michael McDonald, Cho-Liang Lin, Sutton Foster, George Takei, Megan Hilty, Ranky Tanky, Steve Martin, Katharine McPhee, Brian Wilson, Cynthia Erivo and Leslie Odom Jr.

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.