Lee Nelson

Professor of Music / Zahn Chair in Choral Conducting

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More about Lee Nelson

Director of the Wartburg Choir
Ritterchor/Zahn Chair in Choral Conducting

Dr. Lee Nelson is the Patricia R. Zahn Chair in Choral Conducting and director of choral activities at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. Nelson was recently honored with the John O. Chellevold Award for Excellence in Teaching and Professional Service. He conducts the Wartburg Choir and Ritterchor and teaches beginning and advanced conducting and literature at Wartburg. He also serves as the artistic director of Christmas with Wartburg, which was nominated for a regional Emmy in 2012.

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 Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Italy, Germany, France and Turkey, critics lauded Nelson’s innovative programming and the choir’s “rich and colorful” choral tone. Internationally renowned composer Morten Lauridsen praised Nelson and the Wartburg Choir’s performance of “O Magnum Mysterium” stating: “It was in the top echelon of any performance of that piece by any choir that I have ever heard.”

A highly sought-after conductor, clinician and adjudicator, Nelson has directed all state and honor choirs throughout the United States and Canada, including Colorado, New York, Alaska, Mississippi, Nevada, Indiana, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Iowa, Nebraska, and Manitoba, Canada.

In March of 2014, Nelson conducted the Wartburg Choir at the North Central American Choral Director’s Association conference. 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. Nelson was a featured conductor at the 2012 North Central ACDA conference, where he conducted Stephen Paulus’ Holocaust oratorio To Be Certain of the Dawn with more than 360 musicians from six states.

A champion of contemporary music, Nelson regularly commissions and performs new works of choral literature. He has helped to launch careers of promising young composers and promotes music by established composers in his choral series. ECS Publishing distributes the Lee Nelson Choral Series internationally.

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. 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.

Nelson recently retired 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, Gabriel Faure, 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.