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Harford Community College is proud to count among its own the renowned musician and recording artist Benny Russell, who has served as an adjunct instructor of music since 2005. He has had a long and successful career composing, arranging, and performing in venues around the world.
Russell, who plays sax, clarinet and flute, performs locally with HCC’s Jazz Ensemble. The group includes students Andrew McDonnell, Anthony Cellozi, Avery van der Steur, David Anderson, Seth Sprole, Jacob Weinstein, Daniel Woods, Dimitris Gazonas, Matthew Pierce, and Tyler Bielatowicz. During the fall 2016 semester, they performed in various locations throughout Harford County, including the Vandiver Inn in Havre de Grace, the Maryland Golf and Country Club, and at various venues on the College campus.
Russell has plenty of impressive credits to his name. During the course of his career, he has performed with such music greats as Harry Belafonte, Carrie Smith, Woody Shaw, David Murray, Bill Cosby, Dan Aykroyd, Little Jimmy Scott, Johnny Carson, Dick Clark, Melba Moore, Roberta Flack, Glenn Close, Lou Reed, Whitney Houston, Linda Hopkins, Etta James, and more. He has played across the globe in such locations as France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Luxemburg, Iceland, Morocco, Sweden, Finland, Norway, The Netherlands, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, D.C., Seattle, Portland, Los Gatos, San Antonio, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, New Orleans, San Diego, St. Louis, and Toronto. In addition, Russell has recorded with Carrie Smith, Harry Belafonte, Bill Cosby, Kent Miller, EC3, Mino Cinelu, and countless others.
Russell has been heard on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, the Parisian Grammy Awards, the off-Broadway show Beehive (as composer, arranger, and saxophonist), ESPN, The Cosby Show, and A Different World.
He chaired the Jazz Division at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music from 1995 to 2004. After an extensive career in New York City, Russell moved to Harford County and chaired the Jazz Department at the Maryland Conservatory of Music in 2004 along with teaching at HCC since 2005.
According to Russell, his personal greatest achievements include being a decorated musician for the Borough of Brooklyn for his opera Langston Hughes, composing a jazz cantata for Nat Turner, and composing a symphony commemorating the events of September 11 and played by the Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra entitled Just Before the Autumn. He was also commissioned by the Bronx Arts Ensemble to write a three-movement piece for the Darfur tragedy entitled The Darfur Chronicles, received rave reviews for the musical Scandalous People performed at the Fringe Festival in NYC, and played a successful run with Broadway’s Maurice Hines at the Lincoln Theater in Washington, D.C. in Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies. In addition, he created a Martin Luther King Day Celebration at the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Brooklyn, NY and spearheaded a march for the 40th Anniversary of the assassination of MLK. He also created a Charlie Parker Festival while at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music.
His future plans include writing a symphony for Armistice for a publisher in England; putting together a soul band in NYC that features drummer Mike Clark, trumpeter Randy Brecker, trombonist Tom Malone and others; writing a jazz cantata in honor of Malcolm X to be performed on May 20, 2017; and producing an in-house production entitled Slave Testimonies.
At Harford, he teaches the History of Pop Music in the U.S., Jazz Ensemble, private saxophone, and private jazz improvisation. Russell also teaches at Rock Spring Jazz Academy as a sax and jazz instructor, and he is a freelance artist as well.
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