Music and Musicians

Russell Wilson

Principal, Quincy and Anne Owen Cole Chair
Piano & Celeste

Russell Wilson, a native of Memphis, Tennessee, is an outstanding classical and jazz pianist who received his B.M. and M.M. degrees from the University of Memphis (formerly Memphis State University).  Formerly a member of Virginia Union University’s music faculty, he now teaches at the University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University, performs with the Russell Wilson Quartet, the Smithsonian Jazz Orchestra and was pianist with the Joe Kennedy Quartet.

Wilson enjoys a distinguished career as a solo and chamber performer.  As principal pianist for the Richmond Symphony, he has performed as a soloist and has accompanied world-class artists including Mel Torme, Richard Hyman, Cab Calloway, Chet Atkins, Steve Allen and Carol Lawrence.  Through the years, his performances have been numerous and diverse:  as pianist with the Joe Kennedy Quartet at the National Association of Jazz Educators Conference in Atlanta, with the Louisville Symphony Orchestra as accompanist for flautist, Leslie Burrs, as pianist with Trio Pro Viva, a chamber ensemble devoted to the performance of music by Black composers.

Wilson has performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major with the Petersburg Symphony Orchestra; Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major with the Reston Community Orchestra; Duke Ellington’s New World a’ Comin’ with the New River Valley, Richmond Symphony and Arkansas Symphony orchestras.  His 2006 performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue with the Richmond Philharmonic Orchestra contained improvisational interludes interlaced with the usual solo passages. He has participated in master classes conducted by Earl Wild and Leon Fleisher.

In addition to his performances, he has presented improvisational workshops for the Richmond Music Teachers Association, Richmond Jazz Society, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Virginia State University with violinist Joe Kennedy, Jr. He was the 2000 resident Blues Artist for the Long Beach, Calif. public schools, and in 2002 presented a lecture/performance at the Museum of the City of New York tracing the roots of Latin jazz and its influence on American jazz.  In 2006 the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts invited him as guest lecturer discussing, What Makes Bach Swing?  Benefit performances have been presented for American Field Services and Richmond Area Retarded Citizens.

As a recording artist, he is featured as solo pianist on Moonlight Piano and The Memphis Convention with both releases having enjoyed frequent airplay.  In 1995 he became pianist for the Smithsonian Jazz Orchestra co-conducted by Gunther Schuller and David Baker, then began touring in January 1996 to celebrate the Smithsonian’s 150th year of existence.  Beginning in 1999, the orchestra toured the United States, Canada, Istanbul, Spain, Italy, France, London, Helsinki and the Hague performing the Cotton Club Revue featuring the music of Duke Ellington. 

In September 2002, he was awarded the Theresa Pollak Award for excellence in the arts and in 2006 the Richmond Jazz Society presented him the Jazz Pioneer Award.

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