Russell Wilson is a native of Memphis, Tenn., and an outstanding classical and jazz pianist who received his bachelor and master of music degrees from Memphis State University. Formerly a member of Virginia Union University’s faculty, he now teachers at VCU and is an assistant professor of music at Virginia State University in Petersburg. Wilson performs regularly with the Russell Wilson Quartet, and formerly performed with the Joe Kennedy Quartet and the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.
Wilson enjoys a distinguished career as a solo and chamber music performer. He is the principal pianist of the Richmond Symphony, where he has performed as a soloist and accompanied world class artists including Mel Tormé, Dick Hyman, Cab Calloway, Chet Atkins, Steve Allen and Carol Lawrence. Wilson’s performances over the years have been numerous and varied—pianist with the Joe Kennedy Quartet at the National Association of Jazz Educators Conference in Atlanta; with the Louisville Orchestra as accompanist for flutist Leslie Burrs; and at the Smithsonian Institution as pianist with Trio Pro Viva, a chamber ensemble devoted to the performance of music by black composers. As a soloist, he has performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major with the Petersburg Symphony Orchestra, Duke Ellington’s “New World A-Comin’” with the New River Valley Symphony Orchestra and the Richmond Symphony and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major. Wilson was also selected to perform in master classes conducted by Earl Wild and Leon Fleisher.
In addition to his performances, Wilson has conducted improvisational workshops for the Richmond Music Teachers Association, Richmond Jazz Society (Bach, Bop and Beyond), Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Virginia State University with violinist Joe Kennedy Jr. He has also presented benefit concerts for American Field Services and Richmond Area Associations for Retarded Citizens.
As a recording artist, he is featured as soloist on “Moonlight Piano” and “The Memphis Convention.” During the summer of 1995 he became pianist for the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra conducted by David Baker and Gunther Schuller. Wilson began touring with the SJMO in January 1996, in celebration of the Smithsonian’s 150th year. The group has since traveled throughout the U.S., Canada, Spain, Italy, France, London, Istanbul, Helsinki and the Hague, performing “The Cotton Club Revue,” featuring the music of Duke Ellington. During July 2002, in conjunction with the Smithsonian Associates and Raíces Latin Music Museum, Wilson presented a lecture/performance at the Museum of the City of New York. His program traced the development of Latin jazz and its influence on American jazz.
He received the Theresa Pollak Award for excellence in the arts in 2002.