James Russell Young, 60: Taught opera at Kennesaw State University

Name of Publication: 
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Excerpt of Article: 

Posted: 3:33 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16, 2013

James Russell Young, 60: Taught opera at Kennesaw State University photo
Russell Young was a vocal coach, accompanist and conductor, and he taught opera and musical theater at Kennesaw State University for eight years.

By Michelle E. Shaw

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

When it came to opera, Russell Young loved it all. He understood the importance of each vocal and instrumental component, and he spent the past eight years teaching what he knew to students at Kennesaw State University.

“I was teaching opera as a workshop on campus,” said Eileen Moremen, an associate professor and artist-in-residence at Kennesaw State. “When he came to campus, he raised the bar and created an opera/theater class.”

Young and his wife, Jana, took jobs at Kennesaw State in 2005. After spending almost 20 years in Miami, they were excited about the move and the growing opera program at KSU. Jana Young said her husband found the school to be a “warm, welcoming atmosphere.”

“He and Eileen shared a joint vision for educating and nurturing young singers,” she said. “He wanted to teach them about learning and growing and improving in their art.”

James Russell Young, widely known as Russell, of Marietta, died Dec. 8 of complications from a cardiac event. He was 60.

A funeral was held Sunday in Bastrop, La., at Cox Funeral Home, which was in charge of arrangements. Burial followed at the Culbertson Cemetery near Farmerville, La. A memorial service is planned for 4 p.m. Jan. 6 at Kennesaw State’s Morgan Hall in the Dr. Bobbie Bailey and Family Performance Center.

Young was a military baby, born in Babenhausen, Germany. He played the piano much of his life, helping him develop a love for classical music, and he often accompanied friends in different musical settings, his wife said.

He continued his love of music through education, earning his undergraduate degree in music from Baylor University, a master’s from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and a doctorate from the University of Miami.

When it came to music, Young loved both the technical and performance aspects, his wife said.

“He really enjoyed rehearsing and studying the music,” she said. “He also loved conducting it and performing it.”

Young, who co-founded the Miami Chamber Ensemble while he was in Florida, served as an official accompanist for the Regional Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in Atlanta. As a vocal coach, accompanist and conductor, Young “helped shepherd enormous growth in the vocal area and in the opera program,” according to a news release from Kennesaw State.

Most recently, Young directed a production of “The Magic Flute” at Kennesaw State, which was not only a challenge for the students, but for the faculty, too.

“This was not extracurricular, this was a class,” Moremen said. “For six hours a week, we put on rather major productions. He championed a higher level of artistry and a higher expectation of learning for the students.”

Not only did Young want to see his students become excellent performance artists, he hoped they would become good people as well, his wife said.

At this time in his life, he wanted people to know you could always improve, always raise the bar and always have goals,” she said. “And that as a musician, you could also have a well-rounded life. It didn’t have to all be about the music.”

In addition to his wife, Young is survived by his children, son Zachary Powell Young and daughter Anna Rosalyn Young, both of Marietta; and a brother, Kenneth Field Young of Simi Valley, Calif.