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Russ Sperling

Symphonic Band Conductor

Russ Sperling is Director of Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) for San Diego Unified School District. He is responsible for all components of arts education in California’s second largest school district. Under his leadership, the district’s board of trustees unanimously approved a district Strategic Arts Education Plan in the fall of 2016 and established the VAPA Foundation, supporting the arts in schools in 2017. The district’s VAPA Advisory Council is currently revising and writing a new plan to be submitted to the school board in the fall of 2021.

Mr. Sperling has served as Western Division President of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and also as President of the California Music Educators Association (CMEA). In June, Mr. Sperling was selected as one of two candidates for President of NAfME in an election that will take place in January of 2021.

Mr. Sperling is a founder and remains the lead coordinator of the San Diego Pride Youth Marching Band, an ensemble of 80 high school and college students from throughout Southern California. The band performs at San Diego Pride events and is the only one of its kind internationally. He is the founding President and present board member of the San Diego Winds, a professional wind ensemble, he is the Director of the Grossmont College Concert Band, and he serves on the board for Diversionary Theatre, the third oldest LGBT theatre in the U.S.


Mr. Sperling served three years as Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator for the San Diego County Office of Education. While at the county, he served as the leader of Arts Empower San Diego, San Diego County’s strategic arts education initiative, and created the annual Arts Empower Mega Conference. He also served four years as Director of Visual and Performing Arts for the Sweetwater Union High School District. Mr. Sperling began his career as the Instrumental Music Director at Helix Charter High School. During his fourteen-year tenure at Helix, the band and orchestra tripled in size, won numerous awards and performed in Europe on three tours. Mr. Sperling holds a B.A. in Political Science from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, a Masters in Educational Leadership from Point Loma Nazarene University and a second Masters in Music Performance with an emphasis in Conducting from San Diego State University.

Mr. Sperling received “Distinguished Leader Award” for Central Office by the Administrators Association of San Diego City Schools (AASD) in 202. He received the “Artful Visionary” award from Arts Empower San Diego in 2020, and was recognized as San Diego Pride’s Volunteer of the Year in 2019. He has received the Arts Education Advocate award from Bravo San Diego. From the CMEA Southern Border Section, he has received their “Music Educator,” “Administrator,” and “Band Director” of the year awards. He has received the Outstanding Administrator award by the California Art Education Association, and has been honored as a distinguished alumnus by the School of Music and Dance at San Diego State University. He has received the “Prize Principal Award” from KYXY FM and Point Loma Nazarene University. He has received the Golden Apple Award from Helix Charter High School for excellence in teaching.

Russ Sperling
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