About the Collection
Born in Chicago on June 25, 1928, and raised on the city's North Side, William Russo was a composer of jazz, rock, symphonic music, operas, ballets, film scores, and music-theatre works as well as a teacher and author.
He founded the Columbia College Center for New Music, forerunner of today's Music Department, in 1965 and retired as Chair of the Music Department in 2002. He also established the Free Theater in 1968 showcasing rock cantatas and multi-media shows; it ran until 1973.
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, Cannonball Adderley, Benny Carter, Lennie Tristano, Corky Siegel, and Orbert Davis; and vocalists Billie Holiday, Annie Ross, Cleo Laine, Irma Routen, and Darius de Haas. He died on January 11, 2003, five days after conducting his last concert at Chicago's famed Jazz Showcase nightclub.
The Theatre poster collection holds additional William Russo materials, as the department had previously been the Theater/Music department.
William Russo Music and Personal Papers
An additional collection is held at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.