This big visit was the latest boost for Fairfield’s renowned performing arts programs

A world-class maestro took the stage at Fairfield High School last week and led teen musicians in rehearsal performances they’ll never forget.

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Conductor John Moore Russell instructed and entertained students from both the high school and Fairfield Freshman School.

Enjoying the free show were more than 100 school parents and music lovers who came out Wednesday evening to catch Russell and his baton in action outside the CSO’s usual performance home of Music Hall in downtown Cincinnati.

Russell has traveled throughout America and overseas with the CSO.

And the Ohio native is also a sought-after guest conductor having led the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. Other recent engagements include the New York Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra and Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

Students were clad in black tuxedos and evening gowns and their giddy reactions to being in the presence of Russell revealed this was a practice concert like few others in the history of the Butler County school system.

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“I’m a product of public schools,” Russell said. “I did everything. I was in the orchestra, the band, the pit orchestra for the musicals, the marching band. I’m a complete, utter band geek.

“And when I’m here working with kids … it takes me back to when I was that age and the incredible feelings you have as a teenager, coming together with other people and being part of something that is bigger than yourself.

“It’s always a thrill to give back and to give back the energy and enthusiasm I had when I was a kid to this next generation of musicians.”

James Ledbetter, orchestra director for Fairfield Schools, said “it’s a pretty big deal that we could get John Moore Russell, who travels the country conducting, to come and work with our students.”

“The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) is an amazing partner for school music programs,” said Ledbetter.

“Fairfield Orchestra students greatly benefit from their outreach programs, be it the Young People’s Concerts, Youth Orchestra or clinics with world renown conductors. The CSO consistently shows its dedication to encouraging and building student musicians in our region,” said Ledbetter.

It wasn’t for the first time an internationally famous maestro waved his baton at Fairfield High School.

In 2011, CSO conductor Paavo Jarvi presented a community concert in the school’s spacious performing arts auditorium, which is one of the largest in Southwest Ohio.

Fairfield senior violinist Samantha Coning said “this is so much fun and this is a great opportunity.”

Russell, she said, “is so engaging and loud and a great person to work with.”

Fairfield Schools have earned international attention for its Choraliers program and its marching band is regularly among the best in the region.

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“For some students, this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity and I can only imagine their excitement at getting the chance to work with one of the best in his field,” said Gentry-Fletcher,” said Gina Gentry-Fletcher, spokesperson for Fairfield Schools. “This is a testament to the value our teachers and staff place on all aspects of learning in our district. We encourage them to think outside the box and to take learning beyond the classroom so that students are engaged in unique experiences.”

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