Andris Nelsons (born 18 November 1978) is a Latvian conductor.
Nelsons was born in Riga. His mother founded the first early music ensemble in Latvia, and his father was a choral conductor, cellist, and teacher. At age five, his mother and stepfather (a choir conductor) took him to a performance of Wagner's Tannhäuser, which Nelsons refers to as a profoundly formative experience: "...it had a hypnotic effect on me. I was overwhelmed by the music. I cried when Tannhäuser died. I still think this was the biggest thing that happened in my childhood."
As a youth, Nelsons studied piano, and took up the trumpet at age 12. He also sang bass-baritone, with a special interest in early music, in his mother's ensemble. He studied for one summer at the Dartington International Summer School with Evelyn Tubb. He served as a trumpeter with the orchestra of the Latvian National Opera.
Nelsons studied conducting with Alexander Titov in Saint Petersburg, Russia and participated in conducting master classes with Neeme Järvi and Jorma Panula. He came to the attention of Mariss Jansons when he emergency-substituted with the Oslo Philharmonic in their trumpet section during an orchestra tour. Nelsons counts Jansons as a mentor, and has been a conducting student with him since 2002.
In 2003, Nelsons became principal conductor of the Latvian National Opera. He concluded his tenure there after four years in 2007. His other work in opera has included his first conducting appearance at the Metropolitan Opera in October 2009, in a production of Turandot. In July 2010, Nelsons made his debut at the Bayreuth Festival, conducting a new production of Wagner's Lohengrin at the opening performance of the festival.
In 2006, Nelsons became chief conductor of the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie of Herford, Germany, a post he held until the end of the 2008/2009 season. In the UK, Nelsons' early work included studio concerts with the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester, and his first BBC Philharmonic concert at the Bridgewater Hall was in November 2007. In October 2007, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) named Nelsons as its 12th principal conductor and music director, effective with the 2008–2009 season. His initial contract was for 3 years. The appointment was unusual in that Nelsons had conducted the CBSO only in a private concert and in a recording session, without a public concert engagement, prior to being named to the post. His first public conducting appearance with the CBSO was on 11 November 2007 in a matinee concert, and his first subscription concert appearance with the CBSO was in March 2008. In July 2009, Nelsons extended his CBSO contract for an additional 3 years, through the 2013–2014 season. With the CBSO, Nelsons has recorded music of Peter Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss, and Igor Stravinsky for the Orfeo label.