Nelson Hall has been a music educator and worked in church music for over three decades. A versatile musician known for his gifts as a pianist, conductor, and composer/arranger, he is committed to using his community's musical diversity to promote understanding and harmony.
Nelson was born in Cuba, the son of Selvin and Elsa Hall. He started his musical training as a child under the tutelage of his father, a musician who taught him the fundamentals. He later enrolled at the Alejandro Garcias Caturla Conservatory in Mariano, Cuba, where he studied violin under professor Del Rio at the conservatory and Symsia Bajour, concertmaster of the National Orchestra.
At age fourteen, Nelson entered Emerson Senior High School in Union City, New Jersey. Following his graduation in 1972, he enrolled at Columbia Union College, now Washington Adventist University, where he studied piano under Charles Pierce, Neil Tilkins, and Florence Clarambeau.
He became a preferred accompanist, playing for voice students, serving as pianist for worship and chapel services, and accompanying Pro Musica, the college's select choral group, directed by Lyle Jewell. He also served as the choral conductor for the United Methodist Church in Bethesda, Maryland, and started his own vocal ensemble.
After graduating from CUC in 1972 with a B.S. in music education, Hall accepted an invitation to serve as director of choral activities and minister of music at Antillian College in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, where he taught for the next six years. He was widely praised for his work in advancing choral music on the island and for creating a more positive image of the school during that time.
Elman Concepcion, chair of the music department, who was completing a doctorate at the University of Miami, encouraged Hall to start graduate study at UM. He began his studies there in 1984 under scholarship and, working under the supervision of choral conductors Lee Kjelson and Donald Oglelsby and the guidance of Jo-Michael Scheibe, completed an M.Mus. in 1986 and a D.M.A. in 1998, both in choral conducting.
In 1987, he accepted a position at Our Lady of Lourdes Academy in Coconut Grove, Florida, where he taught for two years. For the next ten years Hall taught in the Dade County Public School System and, in 2001, became director of vocal studies at Florida Memorial University in Miami. In that position he is conductor of the University Chamber Singers, professor of voice and piano and also teaches the core music classes for the school's nationally accredited music program.
In 1995, Hall, Joseph Spencer, Wayne Anderson, and friends founded Jubilate, initially a small group of dedicated singers and musicians. Under Hall's direction Jubilate became one of Florida's premier performing arts organizations, one that included a professional vocal ensemble, orchestra, and a preparatory academy, the latter being a joint endeavor with Florida Memorial College. The program was a natural outgrowth of their commitment to the music of the African Diaspora, and the different directions it took as it became part of the American, Latin, and Caribbean culture.
Jubilate programs were both progressive and innovative, featuring the works of composers who have drawn on these resources. The diversity of this music and Hall's dynamic podium presence and rapport with his audiences, led to acclaimed programs and national and international accolades.
Hall has been active in music ministry in both Seventh-day Adventist churches and others. He presently serves as part of the praise team music leadership at the Miami Temple Seventh-day Adventist Church, a position he has held for many years. He is aslo Senior Music Minister at The Church of the Open Door, part of the United Church of Christ, where he is now in his fourth year.
As part of his commitment to the south Florida artistic community, Hall established an annual performance of Handel's Messiah, the 2011 presentation being his fourth consecutive year. His preparation of this traditional work is unique in that he is continually seeking new ways to present it that will keep it current with today's music and new artists.
Hall's use of steel pans to double the string section has become a permanent change in the orchestra. His use of new and up-and-coming minority soloists from high school and college age students as well as seasoned members of the community is also a part of the vision and tradition of this project.
Bridging the classics of yesterday and the classics of tomorrow has also been a successful part of Hall's endeavor to use his community's musical diversity to promote understanding and harmony. He has added as part of his programs artists like Jazz Musician Melton Mustafa, Jeffrey Hughes, and The Florida Memorial University Steel Pan Band under the direction of Dawn Batson. These concerts are given three times a year at the Miami Temple Seventh-day Adventist Church, Florida Memorial University, and, in Liberty City, the Church of the Incarnation.
Hall has collaborated with many well-known artists, including Nestor Torres, Bobby MacFerrin, Paul Posnak, Andre Crouch, Sandi Patti, Clifton Davis, and others. He continues not only as a gifted accompanist but also as an arranger and composer. In a recent collaboration with violinist 'Chelle Reed, he skillfully combined hymns with familiar piano works by classical composers, for example pairing "Softly and Tenderly" and "The Savior is Waiting" with Claude Debussey's Clair de Lune. The result was a best-selling CD, Strength for Today . . .Hope for Tomorrow.
Sources: Information provided by Nelson Hall, September 2011 and January 2012; CD liner, 'Chelle Reed, Strength for Today . . . Hope for Tomorrow; Other Online Sources.