Russell Harris was born in London. He studied conducting, piano, composition and clarinet at the Royal College of Music. His conducting teachers included Vernon Handley, Sir Adrian Boult and Bernhard Haitink. Shortly afterwards, he met Janos Fürst who, as a conductor and teacher with outstanding artistic personality, influenced Russell Harris and laid the foundation for his future career.
During his time at college he was twice awarded the prestigious "Sir Adrian Boult Conducting Scholarship" and was later a finalist in the 5th International Rupert Foundation Conducting Competition in London.
After successfully completing his studies he moved to Sweden to embark on a long and productive career with the Malmö Opera. It was there that he established himself as an experienced conductor of Opera, Ballet & Musicals, not to mention countless concerts with the Malmö Symphony Orchestra. Before long, he had conducted practically every orchestra in Sweden. His contact with the Swedish Radio developed, and he was to make many recordings for them. Also, during this period Russell Harris was engaged as conducting teacher at the Malmö Conservatory of Music and was closely involved in developing the school's Symphony and Chamber Orchestras. He also formed the new music ensemble "Spectrum", which were involved in many successful projects and radio recordings.
In 1978 he worked with Rudolph Nureyev and the Royal Danish Ballet in Paul Taylor's highly acclaimed TV ballet "Auréole".
Between 1984-86 he was engaged as Music Director of the Norrlands Opera in Umeå.
During this time he was also Artistic Director of the Nordic Festival of New Music in Malmö. Together with the ensemble for modern music "Ars Nova", he conducted numerous world premieres, radio and television productions and produced a CD.
In 1985 Russell Harris made his debut at the Royal Opera in Stockholm conducting Jean-Pierre Ponelle's production of "Carmen". This led to many further appearances there as guest conductor.
In 1987 he became principal conductor of the Gothenburg Opera House.
1990 saw a breakthrough for Russell Harris in Germany, when he was invited to conduct a new production of "Così fan tutte" with the Deutsches National Theater in Weimar. The response, both from critics and public alike, was so positive that he was immediately offered the post of First Conductor there. During this time he conducted more than 150 opera performances and concerts including the German premier of Luca Lombardi's widely acclaimed opera "Faust - a Travesty".
In 1991 he directed the European Tour with the World Youth Orchestra of the "Jeunesses Musicales".
In 1995 Russell Harris was appointed Principal Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Gera Philharmonic Orchestra and the Altenburg / Gera Theatre.
Following this, Russell Harris was appointed Principal Conductor of the South Westphalia Philharmonic Orchestra (Philharmonie Südwestfalen), a position he held until 2011. Among the many highlights of his tenure with this orchestra was the enormously successful concert tour of China.
Recently, Russell Harris has been guest conducting with numerous orchestras in Germany and abroad. He has worked together with prominent musicians and is a regular guest conductor for the "Schloss Festivals" in Munich, Regensburg and Mannheim. He has been invited several times to direct the conducting course of the German Music Council's Conductors Forum and, for many years, has directed orchestra courses in Denmark (Copenhagen, Askov and Baelum).
Russell Harris is regarded as an expert in the field of symphonic jazz. He has also conducted countless performances of classical musicals, film music concerts as well as crossover concerts. He is a regular guest conductor for the nationwide concert event "Last Night of the Proms" in which his light hearted and humorous presentations give these concerts a special flair.
Furthermore, he is a strong supporter of new music, effectively integrating new works by placing them regularly in his programmes.
Particularly noteworthy is his passion for projects that introduce children and youth to music. For this reason, he created the concert series "Young Classics" with the South Westphalia Philharmonic Orchestra and organized various projects together with the music-school of Siegen. All these events and many more have achieved cult status with the public.