You’re trying to raise money. You know who could provide the funds. You set personal appointments, talk with people in person. You know you have a good project that will make an impact. And all you hear is “no.” When do you give up? Russell Joel Brown heard no 75 times before he got to “yes.”
He could have given up earlier, but he didn’t. It’s just not who he is. A singer, dancer, and actor he didn’t give up when auditioning for Disney’s “The Lion King.” Russell auditioned 10 times over ten years. The “yes” was elusive. He toured the United States, Europe, Mexico, and Japan with “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and “Ain’t Misbehavin.’” But each time he auditioned for “The Lion King” the producers couldn’t figure out how to cast him.
A member of the Brown family from Augusta GA Russell is also committed to his parents and siblings. When it came time to care for his father and then his mother he took a break from touring and became a caretaker. He also continued to perform, this time in local productions, fundraisers and cabarets. His unstoppable creativity expressed itself in “From Mozart to Motown” the one-man show he developed in 2002 in Augusta.
It’s one thing to create a show, it’s another thing to secure the resources required to produce it. That’s where Brown’s vision and determined optimism made a difference. After getting his 75th “no” he didn’t give up. Number 76 was Peter Knox, IV, the owner of D Timms Jazz Cafe. Knox said yes, but not as an investor or underwriter. He wanted his cafe to be the sponsor. And so D. Timm’s and Comcast proudly present From Mozart to Motown – An Evening with Russell Joel Brown sold out the Imperial Theatre in Augusta, bringing an integrated audience to Brown’s one-man revue.
Brown is committed to the arts and to ensuring young people can grow their talents. When on the road he takes the time to bring his Project Inspire program to schools and arts organizations. He shares videos from the Lion King, tells his story, and encourages children and youth to focus on their talents. He offers guidance in the business side of life as an actor, talking with them about preparation, reputation and how to negotiate.
Brown is a Morehouse man, and while in college was a member of the Morehouse College Glee Club and Morehouse Quartet. Before that he began his dance training as a young child at the Augusta Ballet School, following in the footsteps of his sister Karen Brown who went on to become the principal ballerina for Dance Theatre of Harlem from 1973 – 1995. His life is committed to theatre and the next generation.
You can reach Brown at THREATS3@aol.com .
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.