• Title
    • William Russo Collection
    • William Russo Collection, 1950-2005 RG 1000.08
  • PublisherCollege Archives & Special Collections at Columbia College Chicago
  • LanguageEnglish
  • RepositoryCollege Archives & Special Collections at Columbia College Chicago
  • OriginationRusso, William (Bill)
  • Physical Description33.0 Cubic Feet Forms of Material: Artifacts; audiovisual materials; personal papers; Posters; sound recordings
  • Date1950-2005
  • AbstractWilliam "Bill" Russo (1928-2003) was a composer, conductor, musician, teacher, and author of Chicago, Illinois. Additionally, Russo was the founder of the Chicago Jazz Ensemble at Columbia College Chicago, the founder and Director of Chicago Free Theater, and the director of High School Jazz Festival. The bulk of this Collection includes scores composed by Russo and audiovisual materials.

William "Bill" Russo was born on June 25, 1928 in Chicago, Illinois. Remembered as a composer, conductor, musician, teacher, and author, Russo began composing and arranging in his teens. In 1943, he studied composition and improvisation with Lennie Tristano, a leader in the progressive jazz movement and he formed his own band which held performances locally. He joined the Kenton Orchestra as a trombone player in 1950 and a year later became chief composer-arranger for the Orchestra.

Russo also taught at the Manhattan School of Music in New York and the Lenox School of Jazz in Massachusetts. While teaching, he authored the first of three textbooks on jazz composition, Composing for the Jazz Orchestra.

In 1962, he moved to London and worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), where he also founded the London Jazz Orchestra. When he left the Stand Kenton Orchestra in 1954 and continued private composition and conducting studies, then moved to New York in 1958 where he led the 22-piece Russo Orchestra. In 1965, he returned to Chicago, Illinois where he founded Columbia College Chicago's Music Department, became the Director of its Center for New Music, and established the Chicago Jazz Ensemble.

From 1968 to 1974, he also led the Chicago Free Theater. The troupe performed in local theaters and churches around Chicago before becoming the resident professional ensemble of the Columbia College Center for New Music. The theater performed original Russo and others' compositions that specialized in multimedia rock cantatas.

While serving as Chair of the Columbia College Music Department, Russo also was a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Composition at the Peabody Institute of Music of John Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland) and an adjunct professor at Antioch College (Yellow Springs, Ohio). During the 1970s, he also conducted the New American Orchestra, the Peabody Orchestra, and the Chicago Chamber Orchestra. He served as composer-in-residence to the City and County of San Francisco, California from 1975 to 1976 and he worked on film scores in London, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

In 1990, Russo re-established the Chicago Jazz Ensemble in residence at Columbia College and he also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences. In June 2002, he retired from Columbia College after serving as Chair of its Music Department for 37 years. He continued to develop the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, composing and conducting up to the week of his death, January 11, 2003.

The William Russo Collection dates from 1950 to 2005 in 33.0 cubic feet. The strength of this collection lies in scores of Russo's compositions and audiovisual recordings of Russo's works. Materials include scores, posters, photographs, audio tapes, 16mm films, slides, artifacts, correspondence, course materials, notes, performance masks, and correspondence course materials.

The William Russo Collection has been arranged in five series by format:

Series 1: Scores, 1972-2002 Series 2: Audio/Video, 1957-2002 Series 3: Photographs, 1967-1986 Series 4: Artwork, 1954-1993 and undated Series 5: Papers, 1957-1991

Materials within the first four series have been arranged alphabetically. The fifth series has been arranged by subject and alphabetically within each subject.

Folder/Item Title, (date). Series Title, William Russo Collection, College Archives & Special Collections, Columbia College Chicago.

William Russo Music and Personal Papers at The Archives Center at the American History Museum of the Smithsonian Institute, Washinton, D.C.

The entirety of the William Russo collection is available to all users. Any unprocessed items added to the collection that are not in this current inventory will become available for all users once the Archivist has updated the collection's description.

Materials are the property of Columbia College Chicago. Intellectual property rights of work belong to the original creators. Materials within the collection that are published and copyrighted maintain their copyright protections and must be used according to United States Copyright Law. Use of this collection and its materials is understood to be primarily for research, teaching, and creative study; additional uses, such as publication, exhibition, or other appropriate purposes may be considered upon consultation with the Archivist.

All physical materials and reformatted media must be viewed during a scheduled appointment time within the College Archives & Special Collections office. No materials are to be circulated unless otherwise consulted with the Archivist.

Access to some audiovisual media in the collection, such as VHS, audio cassette, or phonographic record, may be temporarily unavailable pending digital reformatting.

Access to reformatted media in the collection, such as VHS, audio cassette, phonographic records, or computer files, must be viewed within the College Archives & Special Collections office during a scheduled appointment. Although reformatted, these items cannot be sent electronically nor can be published in our online database due to copyright restrictions. A computer and other necessary equipment will be provided during the appointment to access these materials.

  • Subject
    • Composers
    • Jazz
    • Jazz -- Scores
    • Music -- Instruction and study -- Illinois -- Chicago
  • Names
    • Russo, William (Bill)
    • Columbia College (Chicago, Ill.)
    • Chicago Jazz Ensemble