John Wilton Nelson (born 6 December 1941, San Jose, Costa Rica, of American parents) is an American conductor. Nelson studied at Wheaton College, and later at the Juilliard School of Music with Jean Morel . Nelson was Music Director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra from 1976 to 1987. Nelson made two commercial recordings with the Indianapolis Symphony, of music by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and Charles Martin Loeffler, for the New World Records label. With Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, he was Music Director from 1985 to 1988, and Principal Conductor from 1988 to 1991.
He was also music director of the Caramoor Festival in Katonah, New York from 1983 to 1990. In September 1998, Nelson became Music Director of the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris. In March 2007, it was announced that he would leave this position with the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris at the end of the 2007-2008 season.
He is particularly noted as a great interpreter of large Romantic works, for his performances of opera, in particular the operas of Berlioz, as well as of Baroque music. Nelson regularly conducts in virtually all the major cities throughout the world. In America he has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the symphony orchestras of Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Cleveland. In Europe, with all the London orchestras, Dresden Staatskapelle, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Orchestre de Paris, the orchestras of Cologne, Stuttgart, Rotterdam, Oslo, and Stockholm.
John Nelson is also known for his interest in choral music and is the Music Director of Soli Deo Gloria an organization that has the goal of encouraging classical sacred music by funding commissions, encouraging performances of masterworks and making possible the performance of classical sacred music in locales where such music is not well known.
Nelson and his wife Anita reside in Paris.
In April 2009, Nelson's alma mater, Wheaton College, will dedicate its new instrumental rehearsal hall in his honor.