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Columbia College Chicago
Celebrating William Russo

Celebrating William Russo

William Russo at the chalkboard

Columbia College Chicago presents Celebrating William Russo: Artist and Educator, a tribute to the life and legacy of one of the seminal figures in Chicago’s music, theatre, and educational communities, on Friday and Saturday, December 6 and 7, 2013.

The weekend begins Friday, December 6, with a free 6 p.m. screening of John and Faith Hubley's classic animated feature Everybody Rides the Carousel, featuring a soundtrack score by William Russo. On Saturday, a free panel discussion will explore Russo’s legacy as a musician, theatre artist, and teacher at Columbia College’s Concert Hall, 1014 S. Michigan, from 2–5 p.m., followed by a special benefit concert of Russo’s music at the Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Ct., at 8 p.m. (preceded by a reception at 6 p.m) with guest artists Lee Konitz, Orbert Davis and Corky Siegel joining the Columbia College Jazz Ensemble. 

For concert tickets please call 312-369-8330 or visit the online ticket page. Proceeds from the concert benefit the William Russo Endowed Scholarship at Columbia College Chicago.

Biographical Overview

Born in Chicago on June 25, 1928, and raised on the city's North Side, William Russo was a distinguished composer of jazz, rock, symphonic music, operas, ballets, film scores, and music-theatre works as well as an influential teacher and author. He founded the Columbia College Center for New Music, forerunner of today's Music Department, in 1965. He served at Columbia from 1965 until his retirement as Chair of the Music Department in 2002. He passed away on January 11, 2003, five days after conducting his last concert--a performance by the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, which Russo founded, at Chicago's famed Jazz Showcase nightclub.

William Russo with Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn

Russo's music in all genres was noted for its rich instrumental textures, rhythmic variety, harmonic complexity, and innovative melding of styles. In his wide-ranging career he worked with many notable collaborators, including jazz bandleaders Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton, and Dave Brubeck; classical musicians Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, Karel Jirak, and Yehudi Menuhin; instrumentalists Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan, Cannonball Adderley, Larry Adler, Benny Carter, Lennie Tristano, Maynard Ferguson, Corky Siegel, Steven Staryk, and Orbert Davis; and vocalists Billie Holiday, Annie Ross, Cleo Laine, Irma Routen, Aisha de Haas and Darius de Haas.

Russo with Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.

Images courtesy of Columbia College Chicago Archives and the family of William Russo.

Columbia College Chicago is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, charitable and educational organization. Fair Market Value per ticket is $20. Any additional amount of your ticket purchase(s) is tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.