This archived article was written by: Nathan Manley
Another one bites the dust, that is, yet another professor bites the dust. Students and faculty were shocked to hear that not one, but two key instructors were leaving USU Eastern’s music department when associate professor Russell Wilson announced his retirement effective at the end of the 2013 spring semester. Greg Benson resigned in February.
“Not quite sure how I feel about leaving,” Wilson says, but knows that “it is time to move on.” Certainly bittersweet feelings are bound to arise after teaching here for 27 years.
Price has been his home for much longer than 27 years. Being raised in Carbon County along with other faculty members here at Eastern. Graduating from Carbon High School, Class of ’69, Wilson thinks back fondly of those years, especially participating in the school’s band and choir.
Originally, a french horn player, he always had trouble emoting himself during musical performances, because the instrument acts as a barrier between the performer and the audience. This is a common problem many musicians understand.
While studying with Dorothy Brown, Carbon High’s choir director, Wilson realized you do not have the same problem while singing; there is only pure emotion with your voice. “Dorothy Brown changed my life,” mentions Wilson, “by showing me the magic and power a singer can have on an audience.”
Wilson continued his education, earning a degree in Spanish and music at Arizona State University and a master’s degree at Utah State University in 1985. Before returning to Carbon County, he taught at the Logan campus for three years. During that time he founded the Cache Kid’s Choir, which is still performing today.
Wilson came back to his hometown in ’87 to teach full time at the College of Eastern Utah and has since had many highlights. During his second year, he received a large grant, and was able to take one of his concert choirs to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York. “It was a thrill and not only a first, but a last for us to do that,” jokes Wilson.
For any musician, having their original music published and performed is a crowning achievement. Wilson had the opportunity to do so with his “Prelude to Glory.” Original orchestration and choral music reflecting the American Revolution.
Other moments he enjoyed in the community was working with the Price Civic Chorale and helping with and participating in local theatre productions, particularly with “South Pacific” and “The Fiddler on the Roof.
But, what Wilson will miss most is teaching. He will miss his 1010 students who don’t know what music can be, and seeing that first spark in their faces once they understand. He’ll miss the choirs and voice students and hearing their voices blossom and mature. And of course he will miss the many rehearsals and performances.
Being a student in every subject he has taught, I have seen the passion Wilson has for music, it shines through in his teaching. He has a tender heart and is often touched emotionally by music, and it means everything in the world to me and to other students when we bring that out in him during a rehearsal or a lecture. To see that emotion in your instructor is not only powerful, but priceless. I will always treasure those moments.
He will most assuredly be missed on campus and in the community. He has touched the lives of many with his music and teaching, including my own. I personally have a special place in my heart for Russell Wilson.
He changed my life during a time of uncertainty. After a recent divorce, I found myself drifting and just working without any real future. For years, I told everyone the only thing I was really good at was playing the guitar, and was thinking about enrolling in college (ten years after high school) to pursue a career in music.
I do not think it was by chance alone that I met a music professor, Russell Wilson, one night while working. After some pleasantries, I mentioned my decision to study the guitar and asked for some advice. Receiving few music majors, Wilson was thrilled and eager to help me enroll in all the music classes offered at College of Eastern Utah.
Never having sung in the past, professor Wilson and myself were both shocked to find out that not only could I sing, but that I could sing well. Regardless of having every technique problem in the book, he took me under his wing and changed the course of my musical career.
Just as he had with Dorothy Brown, I had the same magical experience with him, coming to the realization to the power you have as a singer, emoting music purely with the voice. For that, I am eternally grateful.