MARTIN, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee at Martin Department of Music introduced the Allison Nelson Guest Artist Series this semester to honor the career and legacy of Dr. Allison Nelson, professor emeritus of music and worldwide performer as a soloist and member of the Nelson and Neal piano duo. The series will showcase high-profile artists specializing in musical styles from around the world.
“It is important for young people in particular to see and experience the vast array of music in the world,” said Karleen Sternisha, one of several sponsors for the new series. “I was exposed to the fine arts as a child, and I feel that it has given me the confidence to embrace things that are new and different. … I see music as the universal language that can build the bridge that leads to understanding and embracing other cultures.”
Hypercube, an electronic chamber music ensemble from New York, performed Sept. 24 as the first artist in this series.
The second performance will feature Seksion Maloya, a Paris-based ensemble performing in the Maloya style from Reunion, an African island off the eastern coast of Madagascar. The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m., Nov. 19, in the UT Martin Fine Arts Building’s Blankenship Recital Hall. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for non-UT Martin students with student ID. UT Martin students are admitted free of charge. Tickets are available online at utm.edu/musicevents and at the door. Contact the Department of Music at 731-881-7402 for additional information.
A native of Adelaide, Australia, Nelson was recognized as a child prodigy in that country at the age of seven and began performing in public and on Australian radio at the age of 10. She later moved to the United States and studied piano at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she met her first husband, Harry Neal.
Neal, from Paris, Tennessee, was the son of William Fisher Neal, a lawyer and politician in Henry County. The couple performed more than 1,500 concerts from 1950-1968 during a world tour that included countries such as the United States, Canada, Switzerland, India, Hong Kong and Fiji, among others. Neal died in 1968, and Nelson began a second career as a professor at UT Martin the following year.
While at UT Martin, Nelson helped establish the Bachelor of Music in piano performance and founded the UT Martin Piano Ensemble. She also started the University Trio alongside flutist Robert Fleming and clarinetist Gilbert Carp. She retired from UT Martin in 1989. Both the UT Martin Piano Ensemble and the University Trio are now under the direction of Dr. Elaine Harriss, professor of piano, who performed with Nelson for many years.
Nelson is now married to Dr. David Loebbaka, UT Martin professor emeritus of physics, and the couple lives in Jackson.