John Morris Russell To Lead Cincinnati Pops Through 2020-2021 Season

John Morris Russell
John Morris Russell

The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra announced an agreement with John Morris Russell that extends the Conductor’s contract through the 2020-21 season. This builds on a five-year extension announced in 2014 and comes on the heels of a wildly successful international tour in March that included Cincinnati Pops performances in China and Taiwan for enthusiastic crowds. Mr. Russell took over the Cincinnati Pops in September of 2011, which operates under the umbrella of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

“We’ve achieved so much together these past five years and I’m ecstatic to continue on this incredible journey for the next four years,” said Mr. Russell. “We have the most versatile and talented musicians on the planet, and together, we remain as committed as ever to sharing musical joy with Cincinnati and the world.”

The globally popular Cincinnati Pops has seen double digit increases in attendance under Mr. Russell’s leadership, as well as a reemergence into commercial recording and touring. Highlights of his tenure so far include: an international tour to Asia in March of 2017 and a domestic tour to Florida in December of 2014; the American Soundscapes online video series, which has garnered over 375,000 views around the world since its launch last year; 23 sold-out performances since 2011; an expansion of the Lollipops Family Concert series; four popular commercial recordings including the Pops’ first-ever live recording, American Originals; world premieres; parks concerts throughout the community; collaborations with the USO; and leading the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s Classical Roots concert celebrating African-American musical experience.

Mr. Russell also shared the conducting podium with his colleague, CSO Music Director Louis Langrée, during the immensely successful LUMENOCITY the past four years, an event that drew tens of thousands of people as well as a large broadcast audience.

“John truly embodies the Orchestra’s mission to seek and share inspiration,” said Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Board Chair Francie Hiltz. “He is not only passionate about creating amazing musical experiences, but also truly engaging this community he calls home. John is a visionary leader for the Cincinnati Pops and a global ambassador for the arts and our region. We look forward to more of his artistry, inspired creativity and boundless energy.”

In addition to his position in Cincinnati, Mr. Russell is also Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra in South Carolina and Principal Pops Conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in New York. A popular guest conductor throughout the United States and Canada, Mr. Russell also holds the title of Conductor Laureate with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra in Ontario, Canada, where he served as Music Director for 11 years.

Mr. Russell will lead the Cincinnati Pops in four performances of Disney in Concert: Tale as Old as Time from April 28 to April 30 at the Taft Theatre, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in its annual Classical Roots performance on May 5 at Crossroads Community Church with a 150-member choir, and a Lollipops Family Concert on June 10 at the Taft Theatre. Other summer Cincinnati Pops performances include Patriotic Pops on July 4 at Riverbend Music Center, a community performance at Woodland Mound Park, and the annual post-game fireworks concert with the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 21.

In October, the Orchestra returns to Cincinnati Music Hall following an historic $135 million renovation. The Pops’ season opening performances, part of five weekends of grand opening celebrations from Music Hall’s resident companies, will feature Mr. Russell conducting the music from film composer John Williams including selections from Star Wars and other blockbusters, as well as a world premiere of an unpublished work by the legendary composer on October 13, 14 and 15.

The Pops has sold ten million recordings around the globe and has had more albums on the Billboard charts than any other orchestra in history. Next year the Pops will release American Originals, Volume 2, its 95th commercial recording and the fifth with Mr. Russell. The highly-anticipated album will be recorded live at Music Hall in November.