Dr. Robert Russell, professor of music at the University of Southern Maine and music director of Portland’s Choral Art Society, is a native of Roanoke, Virginia, where he grew up in the Baptist tradition of choral expression as an integral part of religious life. He studied music and religion at Wake Forest University (BA) and choral music with Lara Hoggard at the University of North Carolina (MM). He received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in the literature and performance of choral music at the University of Colorado where he studied conducting with Lynn Whitten and voice with Barbara Doscher. He continued his studies with Robert Shaw, Alice Parker, Helmuth Rilling, and Elmer Iseler. He is deeply indebted to inspiring teachers who have fostered his musical growth and development.
In 1979 Bob and his wife Linda moved to Portland to begin his work at the University of Southern Maine where he conducts the USM Chamber Singers and University Chorale and teaches choral conducting and music history. After his first sabbatical in 1986, Bob developed an Elizabethan Madrigal Dinner that has evolved into the successful annual Scholarship Gala hosted by the School of Music. In 2005 he received the Excellence in Teaching Award on behalf of the student body at USM where he is affectionately known as "Dr. Bob." A year later the Portland Conservatory of Music honored him for his life-long dedication to excellence in choral performance.
Dr. Russell often travels throughout New England to work with music teachers and their students as leader of choral workshops and clinics. He has guest-conducted more than 60 festivals throughout the region (and at the University of Leicester in England) and has conducted All-State Choruses in Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont, and the 1991 and 2003 All New England Choruses. He served a six-year term as Eastern ACDA R&S chair for Youth & Student Activities and twice served as Maine ACDA President, receiving in 1993 the Maine Distinguished Choral Director Award. Under his direction the University Chamber Singers and Choral Art Society have performed for Eastern Division Conventions of the American Choral Directors Association, American Guild of Organists, and Music Educators National Conference.
Since 1979 Dr. Russell has been music director of The Choral Art Society’s three ensembles: Singers, Camerata, and the symphonic Masterworks Chorus, which performs annually with the Portland Symphony Orchestra. During his tenure as music director, CAS has performed many major works with the PSO, including the world premiere of Derek Holman's Two Poems, commissioned to celebrate the 25th anniversary of CAS. In 1991 he prepared the Masterworks Chorus for a performance of Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem led by distinguished guest conductor Robert Shaw. In 2008 the PSO invited him as guest conductor for the Requiem.
Dr. Russell regularly collaborates with many regional artistic groups including Portland Ballet Company (Menotti's The Unicorn, the Gorgon, and the Manticore in 2006, Carmina Burana in 2004 and 2007, and Mozart’s Requiem in 2010), Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ, Musica de Filia Girlchoir, Southern Maine Children’s Chorus, Bowdoin Chamber Chorus, USM Concert Band and Wind Ensemble, Southern Maine Symphony Orchestra, and musicians from the Portland Symphony Orchestra. He has been an advocate for new choral music and instituted The Choral Art Society’s commission of works by local composers George Andoniadis, Jerry Bowder, Scott Harris, Charles Kaufmann, Travis Ramsey, and J. Mark Scearce as well as the noted North Carolina composer Dan Locklair.