Russell Wilson: Man of Music

Basil Frye and Steven Chun

Contributing Writers

His fingers danced up and down the black and white keys as if each digit had a mind of its own. Though his precision was robotic, his hands still looked as fluid as the ocean. In about 12 minutes, Russell Wilson captivated the audience in VCU’s W.E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts. He played through Mozart’s “Kegelstatt Trio” like he was born to play it.

Wilson has given private piano lessons and taught classes like the African-American Music class at VCU since 1986. He didn’t end up with this job by any coincidence, however. He got here after decades of practice and experience with music.

Wilson’s journey with music began with piano lessons at age seven. Then, in junior high, he picked up the clarinet. He practiced constantly and was consequently offered a scholarship to Arkansas AM&N College in 1962. After traveling and performing for a year, he decided to transfer to Memphis State University (now University of Memphis) where he continued to pursue his study of the piano and graduated with a performance degree.

Wilson utilized his music knowledge as he quickly became the director of the Le Moyne-Owen College Chapel Choir. He stayed there until 1971, when he was offered a teaching position at Virginia Union University. He spent 15 years of his life at Virginia Union directing the jazz combo and teaching a variety of music classes. Amidst his teaching at VUU, Wilson was also offered a position as the second keyboard player with the renowned Richmond Symphony, which he gladly accepted.

Through his plentiful endeavors, Wilson was quickly becoming a well-known musician in Richmond, accompanying countless numbers of his peers while traveling the world to perform. In 1977, the VCU music chairman found the need for someone to teach an improvisation course at VCU and decided Wilson was the man to ask.

“VCU has been good to me, there is always so much to anticipate as the growth of the school has expanded,” Wilson said.

Not only does Wilson teach at VCU, but he is constantly performing. Whether it is playing at church, with local artists, or accompanying VCU students, Wilson truly shows devotion to his music.

“I will always be involved in music in some manner,” Wilson said. “My greatest desires are to travel more and to seek more opportunities to accompany and play more jazz.”

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