Instructor of Jazz, Piano, Interlochen Arts Camp
Chair of Harmony and Jazz Composition Department, Berklee College of Music
A native of Pittsburgh, PA, Inspirational Jazz Pianist George W. Russell, Jr. is a performer, a composer, and an educator.
George began taking piano lessons when he was 7 years old. Along with studying formally, he had the fortune of growing up playing at his local church. There was no written music at church, so he was given the opportunity to develop his ear. As George continued studying music in college, he discovered jazz and the harmonies that were used in jazz. It was then that he began to understand, from a theoretical view point, what exactly he was playing, both in church and from his classical repertoire. In that period of time, George’s unique fusion of Gospel and Jazz was beginning to form.
His performances range from a solo piano, to a groove- oriented jazz trio, to a soulful, fresh-sounding larger ensemble that arouses the listener's intellect and, most importantly, touches their soul. His playing is filled with passion, fire, soul and, most of all, spirit.
George will often refer to himself as "a drummer who happens to plays the piano." This is made clear when you hear the strong sense of rhythm that envelops each and every performance.
George began teaching private piano lessons at the age of 16. This love for teaching encouraged George to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Music Education at Duquesne University. After graduating from Duquesne, he realized three very important things. First of all, teaching music to grades 1-12 in a school system was not conducive to a performing career. Secondly, He still loved teaching but wanted to do so on a college level. Lastly, He was not satisfied with his development as a musician. This lead him to continue his study of music and pursue a Masters degree in Jazz Studies at the New England Conservatory.
While in grad school, George taught at local community music schools and eventually acquired a job as a piano instructor at Tufts University. He then went on to Chair the Jazz department at the New England Conservatory Extension Division. He also served as the Chair of the Jazz Department at the Pennsylvania’s Governor’s School for the Arts for over 20 years.
Currently George is the Chair of the Harmony and Jazz Composition Department at the Berklee College of Music. Prior to becoming Chair, He served as a Professor of Harmony and Piano at Berklee. George has been awarded the Ted Pease Award for Excellence in Teaching, along with the Curriculum Development Award for the Writing Division. George has also been recognized with the highest award that Berklee gives to faculty, the Most Distinguished Faculty Award.