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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Tunes in Town: Cymandye Russell

Cymandye Russell lives her life in the studio (Cymandye Russell)

WILLIAMSBURG — Tunes in Town is an occasional series that will catch up with some of the local musical talents that call Hampton Roads home.

Cymandye Russell was destined for the music industry from birth. Her father named her after the British funk band Cymande. But even then, Russell had no idea of the journey she would take.

“My entrance into music was really started at James Blair Middle School. I was a first chair clarinet in the school band. I really wanted to play drums but my dad wouldn’t let me. He wanted me to play saxophone like him. Music has always been something I’ve been drawn to,” Russell said.

Russell used music as an escape from her everyday life. As she listened, she found that she loved the background beats just as much as the lyrics.

“When I would listen to music, I’d break down everything that you’d hear in a song. I loved the little sounds that you’d hear in the background, I would notice those. All the elements of music, it’s always been in my family and I’ve gravitated towards it,” Russell said.

After graduating in the first class from Jamestown High School, Russell went on to Norfolk State University, where she majored in fine arts with a concentration in graphic design.

Working virtually for Patchwerk Studios in Atlanta is one of the many opportunities that Russell has had thanks to her music career. She is currently their Senior Graphic Designer.

“Patchwerk is a legendary studio, they are known for their work with Outkast, TI, a lot of people. Working there has truly taught me that first impressions are everything, especially in this business,” Russell said.

She’s also had the opportunity to interview some of the hip-hop industry’s biggest names, including Nicki Minaj, Trey Songz, Melanie Fiona, Kurupt, and Cam’ron.

Cymandye Russell will be opening up ArtRiche soon in Williamsburg (Cymandye Russell)

Russell continues to give back to the Hampton Roads area music scene. She wants to inspire kids and teens to go after their dreams within the music industry. In 2022, Russell was a panelist and moderator at Pharell Williams Mighty Dream Forum. She also helped feature local talent at the Something in the Water festival community stage.

“A lot of people want to be in the music business, but they are feeling that our market here is so military or college that music is the last thing on the teaching list. I want to be sure that our kids are going out in this business the right way,” Russell said.

ArtRiche, her newest venture, is looking to bring more to the entertainment world, right here in Williamsburg.

“I’m a graphic designer so when I was doing radio in college, I was also a fine arts major. I was making cover art for people while I was in radio. People would ask me ‘can you play my music?’ and I’d say ‘how about I design your cover art?’. I want ArtRiche to become a place where we can show off all the spectrums of art and using that brand as a hub to teach people as well,” Russell said.

Cymandye Russell loves the music industry (Cymandye Russell)

Her contributions have also been recognized by William & Mary. For the Swem Library at the university, Russell helped curate a collection of Virginia’s hip-hop history.

“Something like archiving music at a well-accredited college library is amazing. What happens to people’s music after they pass away is usually not great. I think it’s so important to learn from the rich music history of Virginia because you’ll see how many people got their start here,” Russell said.

When it comes to anyone who wants to break into the music industry, Russell shares a piece of advice that sticks with her to this day.

“Learn the business and don’t fall into the trap of what you see on TV. As they say, ‘what glitters isn’t always gold.’ That is so true. Have someone in your corner who will protect you from the people who want to do you harm,” Russell said.

To learn more about Russell and ArtRiche, visit

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