Arts & Culture

UK Symphony Orchestra, Choirs Collaborate on 'Russian Spectacular'

photo of The Russian Spectacular poster
UK Symphony Orchestra will perform their season finale with the UK Choirs in a concert featuring Sergei Prokofiev’s “Alexander Nevsky.” The Russian Spectacular will begin 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 21, at Singletary Center.

LEXINGTON, KY. (April 17, 2017) The critically acclaimed University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro John Nardolillo, will perform their season finale with the UK Choirs, conducted by Jefferson Johnson, in a concert featuring Sergei Prokofiev’s “Alexander Nevsky.” The Russian Spectacular will begin 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 21, at the Singletary Center for the Arts.

This UKSO concert will also feature guest conductor and graduate student, Michelle Di Russo, who will conduct Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture.” The orchestra will also perform Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Procession of the Nobles” and music from Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin.”

Michelle Di Russo, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a degree candidate for the Masters of Music in Orchestral Conducting at UK where she currently serves as assistant conductor of the UK Symphony Orchestra, UK Philharmonia and UK Opera Theatre. She holds degrees in orchestral conducting and music production of audiovisual media from the Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina. She currently studies under John Nardolillo, director of Orchestras at UK.

In 2015, Di Russo was assistant conductor for productions of Giacomo Puccini´s "Suor Angelica" and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s "Don Giovanni" at the Prague Summer Nights festival in the Czech Republic. There she conducted an Opera Gala at the Estates Theatre where "Don Giovanni" was premiered in 1787 under Mozart’s baton. Di Russo has served as assistant conductor at the Teatro Avenida for Francesco Cilea’s "Adriana Lecouvreur" and the Teatro Argentino de La Plata for Giuseppe Verdi’s "La Traviata." In 2013 and 2014, she conducted the Orquesta Sinfónica de la Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina in season concerts and performances of new music for the Department of Composition. Di Russo also led a performance of "South Pacific" with UK Opera Theatre in 2015.

UK is home to several vocal ensembles that make up the UK Choirs. Jefferson Johnson, director of Choral Activities, conducts the Men's Chorus and UK Chorale. Lori Hetzel conducts the Women's Choir. Both oversee the largely student-run UK Choristers, acoUstiKats, Paws and Listen and Blue Note ensembles.

Jefferson Johnson teaches advanced choral conducting, choral methods and literature, and directs the graduate program in choral music at UK. A native of Atlanta, Johnson received his bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia, his master's degree from the University of Tennessee, and his doctoral degree from the University of Colorado. While living in Atlanta, Johnson was also a member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus and Chamber Chorus conducted by Robert Shaw.

Founded in 1918 and made up of undergraduate and graduate musicians from across the United States, Asia, South America and Europe, the UK Symphony Orchestra has long served as one of the university’s most prominent musical ensembles. This year they continue that tradition with performances of some of the greatest works in the orchestral repertoire, alongside contemporary works which push the boundaries of orchestral music. Concerts have feature music by the likes of Ludwig van Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and George Gershwin, and by modern composers John Adams and current UK student Logan Blackman. The orchestra also partners with UK Opera Theatre, this year performing "Ragtime" and "The Barber of Seville."

John Nardolillo has appeared with more than 30 of the country’s leading orchestras, including the Boston Pops, the National Symphony, and principal orchestras of Seattle, San Francisco, Detroit, Atlanta, Dallas, Milwaukee, Utah, Columbus, Indianapolis, Oregon, Fort Worth, Buffalo, Alabama, Louisville, Missouri, North Carolina, Toledo, Vermont, Columbus, Omaha and Hawaii. He also recently conducted concerts at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia; and Carnegie Hall in New York. Nardolillo made his professional conducting debut in 1994 at the Sully Festival in France, and has since made conducting appearances in the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and China. He has led major American orchestras in subscription series concerts, summer and pops concerts, education concerts and tours, and for television and radio broadcasts. In 2004, Nardolillo joined the faculty at the UK School of Music, where he is currently serving as the director of Orchestras.

Doors for the UK Symphony Orchestra concert open at 7 p.m. Friday, April 21, with music beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general admission, $5 for students, and free for UK students with a valid ID before the day of the performance (at the Singletary Center ticket office). Tickets are available through the Singletary Center ticket office online at, by phone at 859-257-4929, or in person at the venue. A processing fee will be added to ticket purchases upon transaction.

UK Symphony Orchestra and UK Choirs are part of the UK School of Music at the UK College of Fine Arts. The school has garnered a national reputation for high-caliber education in opera, choral and instrumental music performance, as well as music education, music therapy, composition, and theory and music history.


UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: #uk4ky #seeblue