Jonathan Russell is a composer, clarinetist, conductor, and educator who is active in a wide variety of music, from classical to experimental to klezmer to church music. His work stretches the boundaries of contemporary classical music, opening it up to the sounds and attitudes of the other musical traditions surrounding it. Especially known for his innovative bass clarinet and clarinet ensemble compositions, his works for bass clarinet duo, bass clarinet quartet, bass clarinet soloists, and clarinet ensembles have been performed around the world and are radically expanding the technical and stylistic possibilities of these genres.
Jonathan has received commissions from ensembles such as the San Francisco Symphony, Empyrean Ensemble, ADORNO Ensemble, Classical Revolution, Woodstock Chamber Orchestra, Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, and Imani Winds, and performances from numerous other ensembles and performers, including the Berkeley Symphony, San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra, the BluePrint Project, the Great Noise Ensemble, the new music bands FIREWORKS, Capital M, and Oogog, pianist-percussionist Danny Holt, and pianists Sarah Cahill, Lisa Moore, Lara Downes, and Matthew McCright. Upcoming projects include compositions for the violin duo DoubleTake, the guitar-percussion duo The Living Earth Show, the woodwind quintet DZ4, the new music ensemble REDSHIFT, and a new Bass Clarinet Concerto commissioned by the Bass Clarinet Commissioning Collective.
An avid performer on clarinet and bass clarinet, Jonathan is a member of the heavy metal-inspired Edmund Welles bass clarinet quartet and the Sqwonk bass clarinet duo, which has commissioned numerous new works and released two CDs of new American bass clarinet duets. Jonathan has also appeared as clarinetist with the Marin Symphony, Ensemble Parallele, the Great Noise Ensemble, and the klezmer bands Zoyres and Machaya. He is co-director of the Switchboard Music Festival, an annual eight-hour marathon concert that brings together the San Francisco Bay Area’s most creative and innovative composers and performers.
Jonathan frequently conducts his own compositions and has appeared as guest conductor of his work with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, the Switchboard Music Festival, the Johns Hopkins Clarinet Choir, the Los Angeles Clarinet Choir, and the Claremont Clarinet Festival, where he was the 2011 Composer in Residence. He has also conducted over 30 readings and premieres of works by student and emerging composers.
A dedicated educator, Jonathan has served on the Music Theory Faculty at San Francisco Conservatory and on the Composition Faculty at the Conservatory’s Adult Extension and Preparatory Divisions. He has also taught private lessons in Composition, Music Theory, and Clarinet. With Sqwonk and Edmund Welles, he has given workshops at San Francisco Conservatory, Princeton University, Catholic University, UCLA, Berkeley High School, and the Vandoren Clarinet Ensemble Festival.
He has been Music Director for two dance producitons with choreographers Janice Garrett and Charles Moulton, and has served as Music Director at First Congregational Church, San Francisco. He has also worked as General Manager of the BluePrint new music series, and has written concert reviews for the San Francisco Classical Voice. He has a B.A. in Music from Harvard University and an M.M. in Music Composition from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. His composition teachers have included Dan Becker, Elinor Armer, Eric Sawyer, John Stewart, and Eric Ewazen. He is currently a student in the Composition PhD program at Princeton University.