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John Morris Russell
Conductor

John Morris Russell, Cincinnati Pops Conductor, Louise Dieterle Nippert & Louis Nippert Chair

A champion of American musical style, John Morris Russell has devoted himself to redefining the American orchestral experience. His passionate embrace of America’s unique voice and musical stories has transformed how orchestral performances can deeply connect and engage with audiences worldwide. In his 13th season as conductor of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Russell continues to reinvigorate the musical scene throughout Cincinnati and across the continent through the wide-range and diversity of his work as a conductor, collaborator and educator. In addition to the Cincinnati Pops, he serves as Music Director of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra in South Carolina and Principal Pops Conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Russell is a popular guest conductor with many of the most distinguished orchestras in North America, and this season he debuts with the Florida Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, returns to the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and celebrates his 10th year with the National Orchestral Institute.

JMR’s performances have been called relevant and revelatory. In Cincinnati, Russell’s Pops concerts often celebrate untold musical stories and artists from the Great Midwest that resonate with audiences across the country and around the world. His leadership with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s wildly successful Classical Roots initiative, which he helped create over two decades ago, continues to honor and celebrate Black musical excellence, and has garnered record-breaking in-person and online audiences.

Russell’s visionary leadership at the Pops has also extended the prolific recording legacy of the Orchestra. In 2018, he created the “American Originals Project” which has won both critical and popular acclaim in two landmark recordings: American Originals (the music of Stephen Foster) and American Originals 1918 (a tribute to the dawn of the jazz age), which was Grammy nominated for “Best Classical Compendium.” In 2020, the American Originals Project continued with King Records and the Cincinnati Sound with legendary pianist Paul Shaffer, celebrating the beginnings of bluegrass, country, rockabilly, soul and funk immortalized in recordings produced in the Queen City. Russell has contributed seven albums to the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra discography, including JOY!, the Pops’ latest holiday album to be released in 2023.

Photo Credit: Roger Mastroianni