Russ started playing stringed instruments with his first ukelele in 5th grade purchased with S+H Green stamps in Dover, NJ. After a brief stint in heavy metal bands in high school he discovered bluegrass which led to a life-long love of acoustic music. At his first night at Moravian College, he met John Gorka where they were both playing at an open mic. They soon formed The RAZZY DAZZY SPASM BAND, with Doug Anderson and were joined the following year by Rich Shindell on lead guitar. Russ was the mandolin player , John played incredible 5 string banjo and Doug Andersen provided the solid rock rhythm on his custom made Froggy Bottom guitars. Tim Germer later joined as bass player. Throughout all four years of college, they played around the Lehigh Valley centering around Godfrey Daniel's and the southside of Bethlehem, PA.
During his medical training, Russ continued to pursue his passion of acoustic music and picked up hammer and mountain dulcimer, fiddle, dobro, autoharp and bouzouki. He also started building his own hammered dulcimers and uses his own instruments on stage.
While continuing to practice general internal medicine and geriatrics, Russ played as often as his could at local bookstores, churches, open-mics and music festivals. On Mr. Gorka's return trips to the Lehigh Valley and Eastern PA, Russ often joins him on stage to play back up mandolin. In 2007, Russ played mandolin on John's DVD, a "Gypsy Life" accompanied by Michael Manring on bass, recorded in UCLA's Colbert Hall.
Van Wagner iVan Wagner is an educator, forester and musical artist. In the classroom, he teaches Agriculture
Science at Danville Area High School. He has been selected as Conservation
Educator of the Year in 2005 from Schuylkill County and in 2007 and 2009 in Union County. In 2012 he was awarded the Sandy Cochran award for natural resource education from the Pennsylvania Forestry Association. In 2015 the Red Cross presented Van with the Robert N. Pursel Distinguished Service Award. Outside of the classroom he educates audiences with his music and programs on Pennsylvania History. He received an Outstanding Achievement Award in 2018 from the Pennsylvania Heritage Songwriting Contest. In 2021 he was recognized with an outstanding alumni award by the Danville High School alumni association. His music has been featured on the History Channel, WVIA tv, Country Music Television (CMT), and in several film productions. He has released 33 original albums and published a book entitle "Coal Dust Rust and Saw Dust." His music and programs not only entertain but inspire audiences to become involved in learning more.