Cellist Ariana Nelson is based in Houston where she is a member of the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra. She frequently performs with other ensembles in the Houston area, including the Houston Symphony, Houston Ballet, and is a core member of the new music collective Loop38. Ariana teaches cello as an adjunct faculty member at Texas Southern University, and is a coach for AFA’s Chamber Music Academy. She is an avid proponent of new music and loves experimenting with different styles, including improvisation and folk music. Her eclectic tastes have led her to appearances at Jazz at Lincoln Center, performances for patients recovering in Mount Sinai Hospital’s transplant ward, and a performance with the Silk Road Ensemble at Tanglewood. In 2015 Ariana was invited to perform in a small chamber orchestra to accompany Yo-Yo Ma at the Kennedy Center as part of the Kennedy Center Honors event. Ariana has received many honors as a soloist, most recently winning third prize at the 2016 Eisemann Young Artists Competition in Dallas, Texas.
A native of Seattle, Washington, Ariana was steeped in chamber music as a child. Family influences in music extend three generations back to her grandfather, Alan Iglitzin, who was the founding violist of the Philadelphia String Quartet. Her mother Karen was the first violinist of the quartet before she started her own chamber music organization in Seattle, called Chamber Music Madness. From a young age Ariana participated in this program, which involved monthly all day chamber music marathons with like minded peers, sight-reading difficult string quartet repertoire. As a high schooler she became a teaching intern and gained the experience of teaching and coaching young students playing chamber music. Forming her first string quartet at age eight, Ariana has been a member of numerous groups. During her first year of her undergraduate studies, she played in Trio d’ell Anima, a piano trio that performed in Houston. The following year she co-founded the Azure Quartet, which over two years was cultivated into a prize winning chamber ensemble, with a performance of Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 9 and Haydn’s Sunrise Quartet that garnered them the second prize at the Music Teachers National Association 2014 chamber music competition. At Juilliard, her quartet the “Eva Quartet” performed in venues across New York City, and created a unique outreach project. Her extensive chamber music experience has included coaching with renowned musicians such as Emanuel Ax, James Dunham, David Finckel, John Harbison, Desmond Hoebig, Jon Kimura-Parker, Joseph Lin, and Roger Tapping.
In recent summers, Ariana has performed at the Grand Teton Music Festival, Strings Musical Festival, The Spoleto USA Festival, Fontainebleau Conservatoire Américain, Aspen Music Festival and School, Le Domaine Forget Chamber Music Festival, the Olympic Music Festival and the Zephyr International Chamber Music Festival in Italy. She spent the summers of 2015 and 2016 at the Tanglewood Music Center as the recipient of the James Taylor Fellowship. Her interest in improvisation and international music inspired her to take part in the the Silk Road Ensemble’s Global Musican Workshop at Tanglewood, which included performing in concert with the Silk Road Ensemble at the Koussevitsky Music Shed.
A fierce proponent of new music, Ariana has championed the works of many contemporary composers. She has played in a number of student composer concerts at the Juilliard School and the Shepherd School of Music. Her interest led her to perform with the AXIOM contemporary ensemble, directed by Jeffrey Milarsky, in which she performed works by George Benjamin and Thomas Adès. During Tanglewood’s Festival of Contemporary Music she performed chamber music and orchestral music by composers including Dallapicolla, Druckman, and Messaien. In 2016 she commissioned a cello and piano work entitled “Responses” by Juilliard DMA candidate Jonathan Cziner, which she premiered on her Master of Music degree recital.
Ariana is passionate about bringing the joy of music to others in her community. For the past three summers, Ariana has been an artist faculty member at the Danbury Music Center’s “Chamber Music Intensive,” a week long program for young students. In conjunction with the Charles Ives Concert Series, she taught private lessons, coached chamber music, and performed several concerts featuring new and contemporary music in Danbury, Connecticut. At Juilliard, Ariana’s quartet the Eva Quartet, was part of a year long seminar called Chamber Music and Community Service Seminar led by Natasha Brofsky and Catherine Cho. Within the year, her group proposed and created a unique community engagement project. The Eva Quartet collaborated with Daniel’s Music Foundation, an organization providing free classes and socialization for the disability community in New York City, through music. The quartet frequently visited the foundation where they attended the classes and volunteered, all the while forging a relationship and bridging the gap between the institutions. They put on a collaborative concert at Juilliard, inviting the Lincoln Center community, as well as the same concert at Daniel’s Music Foundation for the disability community and their families.
Ariana received her Master of Music degree at the Juilliard School in May of 2017 where she studied with Darrett Adkins. She completed her Bachelor of Music degree at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, where she graduated cum laude in May of 2015. There she had the privilege of studying cello with Norman Fischer of the Concord Quartet. She was honored to be part of the first Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra tour in February, 2014, when they performed at the Meyerhoff Center in Baltimore, and in Carnegie Hall.