San Diego Master Chorale

The San Diego Master Chorale connects all people to the joy of professional-caliber live choral music and enriches lives by sharing what we have in common – our voice.

Widely recognized for its exciting, inspiring and comforting performances, the San Diego Master Chorale is San Diego’s premier choral ensemble, showcasing more than 100 of the region’s finest singers. The Chorale was founded in 1961, and today continues its artistic ascent under the leadership of Music Director Dr. John K. Russell.

Dedicated to performing the finest choral repertoire, the SD Master Chorale embraces classical masterworks, new music by contemporary composers, film scores and diverse works of many genres to unite audiences and musicians of all cultures, religions and generations. Each year the Chorale appeals to thousands of San Diego residents and visitors, and is heard outside the concert hall with the San Diego Symphony via broadcasts on KPBS, San Diego’s NPR station. The Chorale is also a regular participant in the San Diego Symphony Orchestra’s Bayside Summer Nights series at the Embarcadero.

The SD Master Chorale frequently collaborates with leading arts organizations and composers including the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra, the La Jolla Music Society and the La Jolla Symphony Orchestra & Chorus. In 2018 the SD Master Chorale partnered with the LA Master Chorale and choirs in Berkeley, Sacramento, Fresno and Riverside to host "Big Sing California," the biggest choral event in California state history.

In addition to delighting thousands from the concert stage, the SD Master Chorale also enriches lives through extensive community outreach programs. With special emphasis on underprivileged schools, the Chorale’s outreach arm engages students in grades three through twelve with standards-based classroom presentations that support music, history, mathematics, science and language arts instruction. The Chorale’s annual High School Honor Choir provides a full-day choral workshop experience for more than 130 outstanding young singers, followed by a free concert for community members, during which these students sing alongside the full Chorale. The SD Master Chorale’s Senior Outreach singers perform free of charge to seniors throughout San Diego County, particularly those in assisted-living and memory care facilities. This greatly needed service directly benefits seniors and their caregivers, and supports the community at large.

Why do we need choral music? Music touches our souls in ways nothing else can. The crowds who gathered to sing while the Notre Dame Cathedral was burning in Paris, on April 15, 2019, demonstrated the power of live choral music to meet two fundamental needs in times of crisis: the need for emotional expression, and the need to come together as a community. The SD Master Chorale helps San Diego communities heal and unify in times of struggle, celebrate in times of joy, and transcend generations with timeless music.



John K. Russell, DMA is the Director of Choral and Vocal Studies at Palomar College and the Music Director of the San Diego Master Chorale. As Music Director of the SD Master Chorale, Dr. Russell conducts and coordinates all artistic activities of the chorale, which include preparing the chorus for performances with San Diego Symphony and regular collaborations with San Diego orchestras including the Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra and La Jolla Symphony. At Palomar College, he conducts the Chamber Singers and the Palomar Chorale, teaches applied voice and oversees the vocal music program. In addition, he recently served on the summer conducting faculty at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey where he taught master classes in conducting for the annual Westminster Summer Choral Festival. In May 2021, he is scheduled to make his Carnegie Hall conducting debut performing Shawn Kirchner’s Songs of Ascent with the Manhattan Concert Production Masterworks Chorus and Orchestra.

Dr. Russell is also frequently in demand as a soloist and was recently noted for his “heart-melting legato”. His recent performances include Bach’s St. John Passion at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC, Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with Steve Schick and Renga, Handel’s Acis and Galatea with the Bach Collegium San Diego and Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 with the Westminster Summer Choral Festival and Piffaro: The Renaissance Band in Philadelphia, PA.

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 top vocalists. While in New York he conducted in over twenty 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. 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, and his primary conducting mentors are Craig Arnold, Joe Miller and Jo-Michael Scheibe. 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.