Ron Nelson

From Wind Repertory Project
Ron Nelson


Ron Nelson (b. 14 December 1929, Joliet, Ill. - 24 December 2023, Scottsdale, Ariz.) was an American composer.

Nelson began piano lessons at the age of six. At that tender age, he wrote his first composition, entitled The Sailboat, finding it more fun to improvise than to practice. He became a church organist at the age of 13. His early efforts rewarded him with the discipline to write down his improvisations and the basic principles of orchestration.

Dr. Nelson received his bachelor of music degree in 1952, the master’s degree in 1953, and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in 1956, all from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. He also studied in France at the Ecole Normale de Musique and at the Paris Conservatory under a Fulbright Grant in 1955. Dr. Nelson joined the Brown University faculty the following year, and taught there until his retirement in 1993.

He composed two operas, a mass, music for films and television, 90 choral works, and over 40 instrumental works. Composing for band became a major focus, and the community has been rewarded with his Savannah River Holiday, Rocky Point Holiday, Passacaglia (Homage on B-A-C-H), and Chaconne.

In 1991, Dr. Nelson was awarded the Acuff Chair of Excellence in the Creative Arts, the first musician to hold the chair. In 1993, his Passacaglia (Homage on B-A-C-H) made history by winning all three major wind band compositions – the National Association Prize, the American Bandmasters Association Ostwald Prize, and the Sudler International Prize. He was awarded the Medal of Honor of the John Philip Sousa Foundation in Washington, D.C., in 1994. In 2006, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Oklahoma City University.

Dr. Nelson received numerous commissions, including those from the National Symphony Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic, the U.S. Air Force Band and Chorus, Rhode Island Philharmonic, Aspen Music Festival, Brevard Music Center, Musashino Wind Ensemble, and countless colleges and universities. He also received grants and awards from The Rockefeller Foundation, the Howard Foundation, ASCAP, and several from the National Endowment for the Arts. He also appeared as guest composer/conductor at a large number of colleges and universities, including Illinois, Yale, North Texas State, Western Michigan, Sam Houston, Lawrence, Dartmouth, Southern Maine, CalTech, MIT, and Princeton.

Works for Winds