Karen Nelson

KAREN NELSON, a graduate of Luther College, has been a freelance musician in the Chicago area since 1974, having studied with Samuel Magad and Joseph Golan, both of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Nelson has served as Principal Second Violin of Chicago Sinfonietta since its inception in 1987. She has performed on recordings produced by Chicago Sinfonietta, Chicago Philharmonic, Chicago String Ensemble, Peninsula Music Festival Orchestra and other ensembles.

Touring has taken her to Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Japan and the Canary Islands. Ms. Nelson spent three seasons with the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and twenty years with the Chicago String Ensemble (doubling as Personnel Manager for seventeen of those years). She has appeared with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera Orchestra of Chicago, Chicago Opera Theater, Chicago Philharmonic, Ravinia Festival Orchestra, Joffrey Ballet Orchestra (Principal Second Violin for 9 years), Fulcrum Point, Chamber Opera Chicago (personnel manager for 5 years), Orbert Davis and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, Chicago Pops Orchestra, Elgin Symphony Orchestra, Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, Rockford Symphony Orchestra, New Philharmonic Orchestra, Green Bay Symphony Orchestra, and dance companies such as American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Kirov and Bolshoi Ballets, and the former annual Chicago Tribune Charities' production of the Nutcracker.

Ms. Nelson was Acting Concertmaster of the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra in 2004-5 and 2007, and has been Assistant Concertmaster of the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra since 2001 (Personnel Manager since 2012). She has performed in the Peninsula Music Festival Orchestra (Door County, WI) every August since 1983 and has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio and Chicago's WFMT in live and prerecorded broadcasts. Her work has included playing backup for numerous renowned vocal artists (Ray Charles, Barry Manilow, Smokey Robinson, Burt Bacharach, Luciano Pavorotti and Tony Bennett, to name just a few) and commercial recordings for clients such as McDonalds, Nintendo, Quaker Oats and Curtis Mayfield. For 17 years, she was string contractor for both the Bradley Young Orchestra and the Don Cagen Orchestra.

In addition to her experience as an orchestral musician, Ms. Nelson performs recitals with commentary for retirement homes, churches and concert series, and provides strolling violinists and chamber music for weddings, parties and corporate events. She has two sons and is married to percussionist Bruce Nelson.