San Diego Master Chorale

The San Diego Master Chorale (SDMC) is San Diego’s premier choral ensemble, showcasing more than 100 of San Diego's finest singers. Established in 1961, SDMC is the preferred choral ensemble for the San Diego Symphony Orchestra and other leading performing arts organizations and produces an annual series of concerts featuring the world’s greatest choral works.

Legendary choral composer Alice Parker personally presented the San Diego Master Chorale with the prestigious ASCAP/Alice Parker Award for Innovative Choral Programming at the 2009 Chorus America Convention, in recognition of its debut performance of Daniel Kellogg's The Fiery Furnace with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra.

In 2012 the San Diego Master Chorale was also chosen to perform under the direction of celebrated Chinese composer Tan Dun in the San Diego premiere of his Water Passion According to St. Matthew, which was lauded by reviewers as “riveting” and the La Jolla Music Society SummerFest’s “finest hour” since the annual event was launched 25 seasons ago.

Longtime classical music reviewer Ken Herman shared his thoughts on the March 25, 2019 performance of Puccini’s Messa di Gloria with the San Diego Symphony: "The outer sections of the Kyrie found the Master Chorale spinning out Puccini’s gentle, beautifully shaped themes of petition with a warm, ingratiating sonority, adding just the right amount of brilliance and ardor for the center section, the "Christe Eleison".... In Puccini’s exuberant “Et resurrexit” and “Et vitam venturi,” the Master Chorale flexed its ample musical muscle, displaying vibrant and astutely balanced fortes that testified to the superb work behind the scene of its Music Director John K. Russell."

The mission of the San Diego Master Chorale is to connect all people to the joy of professional-caliber live choral music and thus excite, comfort and inspire audiences across San Diego County spanning languages, cultures, religions and generations. The SDMC serves San Diego by promoting choral education and community outreach. Visit, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.



Dr. John Russell is the Director of Choral and Vocal Studies at Palomar College and the Music Director of the San Diego Master Chorale and. At Palomar he conducts the Chamber Singers and the Palomar Chorale oversees the vocal music program. As Music Director of the SDMC, Dr. Russell conducts and coordinates all artistic activities of the chorale, which include preparing the chorus for performances with San Diego Symphony and other San Diego orchestras including the Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra and La Jolla Symphony. In addition, he serves on the summer conducting faculty at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey where he teaches master classes in conducting for the annual Westminster Summer Choral Festival.

Dr. Russell is also frequently in demand as a tenor soloist and was recently noted for his “heart-melting legato”. His recent solo performances include Hector Berlioz’s Te Deum with the San Diego Symphony, St. John Passion (Evangelist) with Pepperdine University, Carl Orff's Carmina Burana with the Lisbon Summer Choral Festival Chorus and Orchestra in Lisbon, Portugal, and Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass with the Bach Collegium San Diego.

Dr. Russell was previously the Director of Choral Activities at California State University, San Bernardino, and has held similar positions at Albion College (Michigan), Los Angeles City College, Cypress College and the San Diego Children’s Choir. Prior to his work in California, Dr. Russell was the principal choral conductor at the LaGuardia School of Music & Art and Performing Arts (the Fame School) in New York City. At LaGuardia he was the assistant chairperson of the Music Department, conductor of the symphonic chorus and voice instructor for the school’s advanced vocalists. While in New York he conducted in over 20 performances with the world-renowned Orchestra of St. Luke’s, served as a clinician for the New York Philharmonic’s Education Department and was a guest conductor with New York City National Chorale.

Dr. John Russell is a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan and is a graduate of Western Michigan University and Columbia University. He received his Doctorate of Musical Arts in Choral Music from the University of Southern California. His primary conducting mentors are Craig Arnold, Joe Miller and Jo-Michael Scheibe and he has studied voice with William Appel, Curt Peterson, Jeanne Goffi-Fynn and Gary Glaze. He currently resides in San Diego with his wife, Jill and son, Parker.