Student earns spot in American Pops Orchestra competition finals


The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Madison Russell will celebrate her 21st birthday by performing with the American Pops Orchestra on April 10 in Washington, D.C.

The junior vocal performance major considers the chance to sing with an internationally known orchestra an early present.

It’s a gift she’s given herself.

Russell was among 10 finalists selected from a field of 30 singers who competed in the semifinals of the orchestra’s “NextGen: The Voices of Tomorrow” virtual competition on Saturday, Nov. 21.

The next day, she learned how highly a panel of Broadway singers, recording artists and viewers who cast votes thought of her rendition of “My White Knight.” The song is from the Broadway musical “The Music Man.”

Russell, who is from Zachary, La., earned a spot in the semifinals after recording a video of herself singing a one-minute segment of “My White Knight.” She sent the recording to the American Pops Orchestra in October.

On Saturday, Russell competed against students from the Berklee College of Music, Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory of Music and other top schools. “I feel extremely flattered because every performer in the semifinals was definitely meant to be there.

“I think one thing that pushed me forward is I sounded different than other competitors. As I watched, I thought, ‘If I do make it to finals, it could be because I bring a different sound to the table.’ My voice has a classical color given my opera background,” she explained.

While growing up, Russell sang in school choirs and performed in musical theater. At UL Lafayette, she is a member of the School of Music and Performing Arts’ Chamber Singers and Chorale ensembles. Russell is president of the Ragin’ Cajun Women’s Choir.

For her upcoming performance with the American Pops Orchestra, she’s looking forward to singing “The White Knight” in its entirety. “I didn’t even have a chance to sing my favorite part the first time,” she said with a laugh.

Russell is hopeful to be chosen the “NextGen: The Voices of Tomorrow” winner or the female runner-up. A male runner-up will also be selected. The trio will earn scholarships, a paid performance with American Pops Orchestra and chances to boost their singing careers.

“Finalists are placed on a contact list as potential singers for when the orchestra is planning shows, and I’m happy that now they know what my voice sounds like,” she said.

Learn more about Russell and the American Pops Orchestra’s “NextGen: The Voices of Tomorrow” competition.

Photo caption: UL Lafayette vocal performance major Madison Russell is among 10 college singers who were selected on Saturday to compete in the finals of the American Pops Orchestra’s “NextGen: The Voices of Tomorrow” contest. The event will be held on April 10, in Washington, D.C. Submitted photo