Featured Soloists & Musicians

Susan Nelson

Equally at home on the operatic stage or in concert repertoire, soprano Susan Nelson has been praised by critics for her “full, powerful voice – agile and pliant” as well as her interpretations, called both “sensitive and moving” and “full of life and vigor”, showcasing her versatility in repertoire from Bach and Mozart to verismo and contemporary opera, as well as light opera and popular music. A member of the Grant Park Chorus since 2003 and soloist in their 2021 Vivaldi Gloria, she also stepped in to sing the soprano solos in Benjamin Britten’s Spring Symphony on 36 hours notice.  Among Susan’s other Chicago area solo appearances are Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra, South Bend Symphony Orchestra, and Midwest Mozart Festival. 

The 2023-2024 season includes Vivaldi’s Gloria with Music of Baroque,  Handel’s Messiah with the Rockford Choral Union and Northwest Indiana Symphony, Zelenka’s Miserere and Haydn’s Missa Brevis de Sancto Joannis de Deo with Downers Grove Choral Society, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle with Elgin Master Chorale, Brahms’ Requiem with Elmhurst Choral Union, two cantatas with Bach Cantata Vespers, and a recital for the Riverside guild chapter of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, The 2022-23 season included Six Characters in Search of Gilbert and Sullivan, Rosalia in West Side Story with the Northwest Indiana Symphony, Mozart’s Requiem with the Chicago Bar Association Orchestra and Chorus, and a recital featuring women composers in with Bellissima Opera.

During the pandemic she also recorded five hundred songs by women composers/songwriters of all different genres and has presented lecture recitals on the topic at universities, clubs and retirement homes.  

Susan teaches through Music of the Baroque’s Strong Voices program and at Concordia University Chicago and is the music director at Grace Lutheran Church in Mt. Prospect. 

She is also a soloist on three CDs from Music of the Baroque, Peace Be (works by David Jennings) and the Grant Park Music Festival Chorus’ first a cappella CD, Songs of Smaller Creatures and Other American Choral Works, which was released in 2012. Ms. Nelson tied for third place for the 2014 The American Prize in Vocal Performance Friedrich & Virginia Schorr Memorial Award in the Professional Opera Division, was also a 2014 Finalist for the Chicago Oratorio Award by the same organization, and is a recipient of a Career Encouragement Award from the MacAllister Foundation. 

Ronald Watkins

Ronald Watkins, baritone, has most recently sung with Music of the Baroque, Chicago Symphony, Grant Park Symphony, and Lyric Opera of Chicago. Other solo credits include Marcello, La Boheme at University  of Madison, Enrico, Lucia di Lamermoor at Sheboygan Opera, Schubert Mass in G at  Finger Lakes Symphony and Captain Wilson in Carousel at Lyric Opera of Chicago.  Future engagements include return engagements to The Grant Park Music Festival and Lyric Opera of Chicago.