Exeter Cathedral School has announced the appointment of Russell Collins as their Director of Music from April 2022.
Russell emerged as the stand-out candidate from an extremely impressive shortlist, and following a rigorous two-day recruitment process (candidates were asked to attend 2 interviews and a pupil panel, complete an administration task, teach a lesson, coach and accompany (sight-reading) a senior pupil, direct a choir and conduct an instrumental ensemble) the selection panel were unanimous in their decision that Mr Collins is the perfect fit for this significant post at ECS. He will take over in April when Mrs Julia Featherstone steps down after a highly successful and widely-lauded tenure as Interim Director of Music, and under whose direction music-making opportunities have rocketed.
Having joined ECS in September 2021, Russell is excited to be taking on the leadership of the School’s flagship Music Department. He said: “I have had the most enjoyable first term at ECS and am absolutely delighted to be appointed as Director of Music at ECS, a school with a proud history of musical excellence. I am looking forward to being a champion for our impeccable music traditionwhilst offering diverse and fulfilling musical experiences to all the children at ECS.”
Head, James Featherstone, said: “Music and Performance matter very much at our School, and the DoM job here is an important gig. Russell is an exceptional musician, director and teacher: his high standards in the classroom, passion for inclusive music-making, experience as a high- level performer, and his infectious sense of warmth and fun make him ideally suited to pick up the baton in April.”
Russell began playing drums, piano and saxophone at the age of six in his home city of Birmingham. He studied with jazz aficionados Dave Stokes, Graham Knock and the late Tony Richards. He took all three instruments through to Grade 8 and played in the Sandwell Music Service ensembles. After school, he read music at Birmingham University specialising in performance. Whilst at Birmingham, his lessons were at The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire under Malcolm Garrett (Drum Kit), James Strebing (Percussion) and Anna Thompson-Brooks (Jazz Saxophone). After leaving full-time education Russell continued studies with Malcolm Garrett, Asaf Sirkis (Drums, Leeds College of Music/Trinity College of Music) and jazz piano lessons with internationally-acclaimed jazz pianist John Law.
A career in music education began with a two-year contract at Wells Cathedral School, where he was first immersed in the choral tradition and became familiar with the Choir School world. He began teaching drums, percussion and woodwind in schools around Bath, Somerset and Wiltshire, as well as setting up and running the Wells Jazz Collective, promoting and producing jazz concerts for touring professionals and performance opportunities for local jazz musicians. The Collective is still running to this day nearly twelve years later.
After his first stint in the West Country Russell moved back to Birmingham for performance commitments, and began teaching at Old Swinford Hospital School as well as for Dudley Performing Arts and the Priory School, Edgbaston. At OSH he was promoted to second-in-department, a position he held for six years.
He taught the curriculum lessons, delivered music theory & aural, ran the Tenor/Bass sectionals for the choir, and conducted the school’s Big Band, Percussion Ensembles and Concert Band.
As a busy professional Drummer/Percussionist/Pianist/Musical Director, Russell has worked with Symphony Orchestras, Chamber Ensembles, Choirs, Musical Theatre Groups, Rock Bands, Soul Bands, in Musical Theatre Pits, and with Contemporary Theatre Groups, Jazz Trios and Big Bands. He and his wife Maugan moved to Devon in August 2020 to bring up their two young sons Finn and Aiden. Once the lockdown restrictions eased Russell began establishing himself as a music educator and musician around Exeter and South Devon. He currently plays piano/drums for the Exeter Jazz Orchestra and can be found playing at The Bridge Jazz Club at The Phoenix most months.
The School community congratulates Russell on his appointment as Director of Music, and looks forward to continuing to shine as a beacon of musical excellence across the South West and beyond.