Russ Kaplan is a musical storyteller. A creatively restless composer and a versatile keyboardist, he is equally at home in the worlds of jazz, rock, americana, and musical theatre. No matter what the genre, Russ always take his audience on a memorable journey.
As a theatre composer, Russ was a recent finalist for the 2014 Fred Ebb Award, and has created music for a diverse array of projects: the modern a cappella pop of the Off-Broadway hit In Transit, the retro '50s rock of family musical Dear Albert Einstein, and the eclectic musical comedy of Shortstack, to name just a few. He has also composed instrumental music for the Bessie award-winning dance company Third Rail Projects, and The Ulysses Cycle, a modern jazz suite which he plans to adapt into a full-length dance-theatre piece. He is currently creating a new full-length musical with In Transit co-author Sara Wordsworth and playwright Daniel John Kelley.
Russ is also an active performing musician. His band Russ Kaplan+7 performs a unique hybrid of jazz, rock, funk and world music, featuring a supergroup of players from New York's jazz and indie rock scenes. Their debut album The Ulysses Cycle was released in 2013 on Philadelphia's Ropeadope Records. He plays piano and accordion with Brooklyn Americana favorite Chris Q. Murphy, and was the long-time keyboardist for roots-rockers The Randy Bandits. Russ has also performed with virtuoso violinist Judy Kang (Lady Gaga), drummer Claude Coleman Jr. (Ween), power pop maverick Richard X Heyman, dreamy jazz-rock outfit Small Dream Ada, and for the Upright Citizens Brigade's popular show Gravid Water.
As a kid, Russ was raised on a musical diet of classic rock, classic jazz, classic classical, and musical theatre. He attended Carnegie Mellon University's School of Drama as a directing major, where he also studied jazz piano and improvisation with John D'Amico and the legendary saxophonist Eric Kloss. He also spent four years directing CMU's first mixed a cappella group, the Soundbytes, prompting a composer friend to inform him he'd become a "pop music whore". Russ still takes that as a compliment.
Russ teaches private rock/jazz piano lessons, and he is available for piano and accordion session work, vocal coaching, music direction and audition prep sessions.