Columbia is home to so many successful artists—students, alumni, and professors—that it’s impossible to be aware of the multitude of artists outside of the department you study in. This week, I researched Bill Russo, founder and director of Columbia College’s Center for New Music. His first musical success was at the age of 17, when he had two scores accepted and produced. Russo also founded and directed the Chicago Free Theater in collaboration with Mike Alexandroff and Columbia College, and the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, which is still going strong today. Although he passed in 2003, he is still very much alive at Columbia College. In fact, there will be an exhibit displayed in the library in honor of Russo and all his work.
I read a lot about Russo in our former Columbia president, Mike Alexandroff’s book, A Different Drummer: The History of Columbia College. I really enjoyed this book, because not only is Alexandroff one of the most knowledgeable people when it comes to Columbia history, he also knew Russo and many others personally. It allowed me to see a more personal account rather than a typical biography.
Please consider checking out this exhibit, which is currently being displayed on the first floor of the library, to learn more about a Columbia legend. You’ll be able to see various concert posters, from Columbia’s Chicago Free Theater and Chicago Jazz Ensemble, both founded by Russo, in different languages, and a range of years.