The versatile singer-actress is equally at home with Opera, Broadway, Theatre and Clubs. She hails from North Carolina and Maryland. Ms. Nelson’s New York credits include: Broadway’s The Tap Dance Kid (Ginnie Sheridan); Applause; Hello Dolly!; On the Town; Eubie!; Music! Music!; By Strouse and Radio City Music Hall’s The Ginger Rogers Special and The Carol Lawrence Special. Her appearance in straight plays include: The World of Carl Sandburg, Beyond Measure (Annette) and Love Letters (Melissa).
Her touring credits include: Bubbling Brown Sugar (Irene Page); Houston Grand Opera’s revival of Porgy and Bess (Bess); Funny You Don’t Look Like a Grandmother (Anne); Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (Billie Holiday), performed at the Vancouver Arts Club, Hartford’s Theatre Works, Barrington Stage Co., Merrimack Repertory Theatre, American Festival Stage, Vermont’s Peterborough Players, Provincetown Theatre (Cape Cod, MA), The Atlanta Black Theatre Festival and Cookin’ at the Cookery (as Alberta Hunter), Cleveland Playhouse (OH). Ms. Nelson has performed in the popular song revues: This Joint is Jumping; Puttin’ On the Ritz; Gershwin and Friends and, in concert, Billie Holiday, Remembered; she performed in the musical, King (Coretta Scott King) with Simon Estes (MLK), by Maya Angelou, for the second Inauguration of President Bill Clinton and the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington, D.C. (seen on C-SPAN TV).
Ms. Nelson’s Symphony engagements include: London, Milan’s RAI-TV and Radio Orchestra, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Hartford, St. Louis, Chicago, New Jersey, Buffalo, Philadelphia, the Boston Pops, Nashville, Saratoga, the Palm Beach Pops, Brèvard Music Festival, Edmonton, Calgary and the Vancouver Symphony’s Gershwin CBC-TV special entitled Rehearsal with guest conductor, Mitch Miller. She was also guest artist and hostess for the annual Indianapolis Christmas Yuletide Extravaganza with Jack Everly as guest conductor. She also performed three times at the famed Carnegie Hall.
Her nightclub and concert engagements have taken her to the Catskill and Florida circuits and as a popular guest entertainer on Holland America, Seabourn, Cunard, Silver Sea, Regency, Crystal and Celebrity cruise lines. She appeared at Atlantic City’s Claridge Hotel, The Aruba Palm Beach Hotel, The Colony Palm Beach Hotel, The Casino de Monte Carlo, The Spokane Jazz Society Orchestra, The North Carolina Jazz Ensemble in Durham, the New York/Long Island Public Library jazz concert series, The Sarasota Performing Artists series and various New York cabaret clubs.
Ms. Nelson has appeared in films, TV Soaps, TV commercials and in voice overs. She can be heard on recordings: That Healin’ Feelin’ and Phase III (Blue Note Jazz Label/Horace Silver’s United States of Mind album), The Tap Dance Kid (original Broadway album), Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill and Gail Nelson Sings! She also recorded novels for Talking Books, Inc., for American Foundation for the Blind and other book companies.
A graduate of Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music, with a Masters from the New England Conservatory, former member of the Metropolitan Opera Studio and an Artist-in-Residence with Affiliate Artists, Inc., she is a member of Mu Phi Epsilon musical sorority and is listed in Who’s Who in Black America. Ms. Nelson teaches voice privately in New York City and has taught at Sarah Lawrence College and Manhattan School of Music Preparatory School. She has conducted contemporary pop-vocal classes at City College and Henry Street Music Settlement and gives music performance master classes entitled “This Business We Call Show” at colleges throughout the U.S. She was married to the late pianist-arranger, Danny Holgate.