Voices: Faculty Footnote

Dr Harrison Russin speaks on the 'Vocation of Music'

Dr Harrison Russin conducts the choir at Three Hierarchs Chapel
Dr Harrison Russin conducts the choir at Three Hierarchs Chapel

The Orthodox Church in America (OCA)'s latest installment in its series on vocations features a conversation with the musical directors of both St. Vladimir's and St. Tikhon's Orthodox seminaries. In The Vocation of Music, St. Vladimir's Assistant Professor of Liturgical Music Dr. Harrison Russin and St. Tikhon's Director of Music Benedict Sheehan discuss questions including why Orthodox sing in church and what the Church can do to inspire more people to become Orthodox musicians.

At one point in their discussion, Dr. Russin observes that so much of Orthodoxy's liturgical and spiritual tradition comes from the early desert practice of singing the psalms.

So this is where I always start: singing the psalms is always our entry into the liturgical, spiritual, and ascetical life of the church. The very act of singing demands tasks that are the perfect training ground for spiritual warfare. In order to sing well, we have to let go. We have to listen to others, we have to be obedient to the director and to the sound of the choir. We can’t sing too loudly or too softly. The fundamentals of most singing techniques are about relaxing and singing without tension, breathing with solid but free breath. I think these are all reasons why singing the psalter is part of the foundation of the Orthodox experience.

Dr. Harrison Russin graduated from the Seminary’s M.Div. program as valedictorian in 2013. He then went on to earn M.A. and Ph.D. degrees, both in musicology, from Duke University. His wife, Gabrielle, is also a graduate of St. Vladimir’s (‘14) and currently works as the Seminary registrar and student affairs administrator.