Violist Eliesha Nelson has performed regularly as a violist in several major orchestras and has often appeared in concert as soloist and chamber music player. She has been a member of the Cleveland Orchestra since 2000, and in 2009 her first recording, a CD of the Complete Viola Works of Quincy Porter, was issued by Dorian Records. Nelson's musical tastes are broad: as a violist her repertory encompasses music from J.S. Bach to Hindemith and beyond. As a listener, however, she prefers Renaissance-era music, particularly vocal works of Josquin des Prez, Dunstable, and Orlande de Lassus. When Nelson performed early in her career as a violinist, she played the Brahms concerto, the Mozart fourth and Sinfonie concertante, the Beethoven "Triple" Concerto, and much else. She was also an accomplished pianist early on, but later devoted little time to keyboard activity.
Eliesha Nelson was born in North Pole, Alaska, on September 10, 1973. Her mother was a talented violinist and pianist. Nelson began playing violin via the Suzuki method at age six and took up the piano at eight. Among her violin teachers in Alaska were Kathleen Butler-Hopkins and Leslie Salisbury. At age 12, Nelson took part in training at the Indiana String Academy, held in June and July each summer at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. From 1989-1991 Nelson played in the Cleveland Youth Orchestra, holding the post of concertmaster for most of her tenure there.
Nelson earned a bachelor's degree in violin at the Cleveland Institute of Music over the next few years. During her time there she appeared as soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra, San Antonio Symphony, and other important American ensembles. In 1997, Nelson, newly curious about the viola and eager to take on a new challenge, decided to study the viola, not necessarily intending a permanent switch. She earned a master's degree in viola performance at the Cleveland Institute, under Robert Vernon. In the 1999-2000 season Nelson served two short stints as an orchestral violist: the first was as acting principal viola with the Florida Philharmonic from September to March 2000, and the second with the Detroit Symphony, for just three weeks beginning that March. Since 2000 Nelson has served as a violist with the Cleveland Orchestra.