Associate Professor of Music
Director of the Wartburg Choir
Ritterchor/Zahn Chair in Choral Conducting
Lee Nelson is the Patricia R. Zahn Chair in Choral Conducting and director of choral activities at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. Recently honored with the 2012 John O. Chellevold Award for Excellence in Teaching and Professional Service, Nelson conducts the Wartburg Choir and Ritterchor (men’s choir). He also teaches advanced conducting and applied voice and serves as artistic director of Christmas with Wartburg.
Nelson made his conducting debut at Carnegie Hall in 2011 and was invited to return in 2012 and 2014 to conduct the National Festival Chorus. His national and international tours have earned overwhelmingly positive reviews. On the most recent tour of Hungary, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, local reviewers lauded Nelson’s innovative programming and the choir’s superior technique and choral tone. A sought-after conductor, Nelson has directed All State and honor choirs in Colorado, New York, Nevada, Alaska, Mississippi, Indiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Arizona, Iowa, Nebraska, and Manitoba, Canada.
In December 2011, Nelson and the Wartburg Choir were invited to perform at the White House Holiday Concert Series. While in Washington, D.C., the choir also performed at the Washington National Cathedral for a worldwide simulcast of the Bethlehem Prayer Service. Most recently, Nelson was a featured conductor at the 2012 North Central American Choral Director's Association convention, where he conducted Stephen Paulus’ Holocaust oratorio To Be Certain of the Dawn with more than 360 musicians from six states.
Prior to his appointment at Wartburg College, Nelson served on the faculty at St. Cloud State University, where he received the SCSU Professional Achievement Award in 2008. Under his direction, the St. Cloud State Choir was invited to perform at the 2007 Minnesota American Choral Director's Association convention and toured throughout the Midwest and Canada. During a 2008 European tour of 2008, the St. Cloud State University choir premiered To Be Certain of the Dawn at Natzweil-Struthof, the site of a former concentration camp. Earlier in his career, Nelson received the Outstanding Young Choral Conductor of the Year, awarded by the Minnesota American Choral Directors Association, and won the 2005 National ACDA Conducting Competition in Los Angeles, Calif.
In addition to his work at Wartburg College, Nelson also serves as music director and conductor of the Metropolitan Chorale, a 100-voice community choir based in the Cedar Valley. Nelson has led the ensemble in performances of choral/orchestral masterworks by Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Mozart, Leonard Bernstein, Felix Mendelssohn, Johann Sebastian Bach, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Johannes Brahms, Franz Joseph Hayden, and Carl Orff.
Dr. Nelson earned a Bachelor of Music degree from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn. He has done graduate work at Westminster Choir College and is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Arizona, where he earned his Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees.