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Theodore Caskey Russell (February 7, 1911 - September 15, 1984) was The Mississippi Youth Symphony Orchestra’s founder and the first conductor in 1948. In 1965 a daily newspapers reported the fate of Theodore Russell, involved in an homosexual scandal. In August 9, 1965, he resigned from his post as conductor-manager of the Jackson Symphony Orchestra, a post he had held since the orchestra was founded in 1944.

Theodore Caskey Russell was born in Kirksville, MO. In the 1940s he was a teacher at Mississippi State College for Women. In 1948, the newborn The Mississippi Youth Symphony Orchestra selected Theodore Caskey Russell, chairman of the music department at Mississippi State College for Women, as its conductor and manager. Russell also taught music at Belhaven and Millsaps. Together, the colleges and the symphony paid his modest salary. Musicians came from school faculties, military bases, women's clubs and businesses. The Jackson Symphony Orchestra inaugural concert was Oct. 19, 1944, in the Victory Room of the former Hotel Heidelberg on Capitol Street (demolished in 1977) with 500 attending.

Russell inaugurated programs that are still in existence: strings instruction in schools, outdoor pops concerts, formal concerts and children's concerts. He founded the Junior Symphony, now the Youth Orchestra, and the volunteer Symphony League in 1955.

When Lewis Dalvit of Beloit, Wis., succeeded Russell in 1965, the season's budget was $28,000. Symphony offices were rent-free at Belhaven, which still provided a teaching contract for the conductor, a practice that continued throughout Dalvit's tenure.

He died in Raleigh, NC.


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