May 2019

Musicians in Bathrooms: John Morris Russell, Conductor of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra

Author: Special to CH2 | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

What’s your sign?

Most underrated song that, in your opinion, should be a classic:
Schubert’s Symphony No. 4 – the Tragic. It is fantastic.

Biggest compliment you’ve ever gotten from a fan?
There are so many I can’t keep track. But seriously, those who come to the concerts and say the performance was life-changing. I’ve had two people who’ve actually proposed at a concert because it was so meaningful for them. Music is a doorway-of-life experience.

What is your favorite song to perform?
Whatever I’m doing next!

What do you sing in the shower?
I usually don’t, but if it’s really early in the morning and my voice is low enough, I can do “Commendatore” from Don Giovanni.

Favorite cereal?
Scotch. [laughs]. Probably oatmeal.

At what venue do you most like to perform?
If I’m looking into the future, I would say the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Performing Arts Center that’s going to open sometime in the 2020s.

Most requested song at shows?
“Free Bird”

First concert you attended?
Dvorak Symphony No. 8 in 1968 at the Cleveland Orchestra—the concert that changed my life.

Favorite artist?
Rhiannon Giddens, former member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. She is an amazing artist and a wonderful person.

Place you go to get away from it all?
Right here on the beaches of Hilton Head Island.

Do you tweet, gram or book? What’s your handle?
Totally a Facebook junkie. You can’t miss me @JohnMorrisRussell—the guy with three first names.

Finish this verse as if it were the hook of a song:
“Sally went down to the bayou…”
Lookin’ for a man to kill; and when she couldn’t find one, she got a bottle and a pill.”

Who would star as you in the epic retelling of your life on film?
Hmmm … Harrison Ford, but like 30 years ago.

First instrument you learned to play?
The trumpet

Song you were thrilled to finally master?
“The Rite of Spring,” by Igor Stravinsky. I take that back. You don’t master that; it masters you.

What do you wish you knew more about?
Physics. My daughter is taking physics right now, and she kind of shares with me what she’s learning. I cannot make heads or tails of it. I understand that it exists, and I would really like to understand how everything interacts in the universe.

What famous musician would you love to sing a duet with?
I’ve already fulfilled my fantasy, I got to perform a little thing with Amy Grant.

What animal do you most identify with?
I’m fascinated by dolphins and their ability to swim and interact at different levels. They are also incredibly intelligent.

If you got super-famous and you had to change your name, what would your new name be?
Doctor Badd (two d’s).

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