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Broadway Performer Russell Joel Brown Shares Talents With South Aiken High Students

Performer Russell Joel Brown grew up in Bath right down the street from Midland Valley High School.

For 27 years, he worked as an actor in New York, touring in national companies of “The Lion King” and playing Mufasa, Simba's father, in the Disney musical on Broadway in 2016.

But Tuesday, Brown was back in Aiken County sharing his talents with drama and chorus students at South Aiken High School. He coached the students on their breathing, gave them tips on how to develop their characters and warned them about the dangers of vocal strain during master classes sponsored by Joye in Aiken's educational outreach program.

Brown will perform “A Fiddler's Tale,” by Wynton Marsalis, at 8 p.m. March 12 in St. John's United Methodist Church during the annual Joye in Aiken performing arts festival.

“I always want to give back to the community that's given so much to me,” Brown said after the class. “Now that I've moved back home and retired from show business, there is so much that I know that most kids wouldn't know. They wouldn't have access to this information.”

Brown said he encourages the students to work for their dreams and goals.

“I try to come and encourage them, obviously, but also to let them know that it's really hard,” he said. “But if you want it and you're willing to work for it, then you can have it. That's true of Broadway. That's true of neuroscience. That's true of being an astronaut. If you really want it bad enough, then you'll work like the dickens to make it happen if you have something burning in your heart that you want to do.”

In October, Brown started Boys with a Future, an after-school program for at-risk boys in Augusta's Harrisburg neighborhood.

“We're shepherding them through high school and making sure they launch into life, either military, technical school, college or career,” he said.

For sophomore CeCe Crook, theater is a family tradition she plans to continue. Her father and mother, Paul and Mary Fran Crook, were both theater majors, and her dad is the executive director of USC Aiken's Etherredge Center. CeCe performed in a couple of acting scenes during the class and said she welcomed Brown's insights.

Read the full Aiken Standard article here.  

Larry Wood/Aiken Standard