The Charleston Symphony Orchestra and the CSO Gospel Choir have selected a new music director, and have named an associate director for a newly formed vocal ensemble within the choir.

Sandra Singleton Barnhardt of Adams Run will become music director of the Gospel Choir, founded eight years ago to perform locally and to tour Europe performing gospel music, spirituals and hymns.

She takes the helm from Glenn R. Nixon, who was the acting director of the choir for the past year.

Nathan L. Nelson of Charleston has been appointed associate director of a newly formed CSO Gospel Choir Ensemble, composed of 24 vocalists within the existing Gospel Choir who will focus on traditional African-American spirituals and will perform throughout the area.

Ensemble members were selected from about 50 Gospel Choir members. Lee Pringle, president and founder of the choir, said the new ensemble is modeled after the acclaimed Fisk University Jubilee Singers.

After a national search, Barnhardt was selected for her extensive experience in vocal performance and choral conducting.

She will assume her new role immediately.

"We are thrilled to have Sandy lead the Gospel Choir, which has become such an exciting and integral part of the CSO's team," Pringle said.

"She also performed as a member of the choir for two years prior to assuming this new role."

CSO Executive Director Jan Newcombe said, "Barnhardt is a wonderfully ideal director to guide the Gospel Choir's growth, and is also an accomplished leader."

Born and raised in New Jersey, Barnhardt holds a master's degree in music education from Montclair State College in New Jersey and a bachelor's of fine arts in voice from Stephens College in Columbia, Mo.

She has had an extensive career in vocal education, having served as director of vocal music for the Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts in East Orange, N.J. and program director of the After School Center for Performing Arts for South Orange Middle School.

She also was coordinator of music for the School District of South Orange-Maplewood, N.J. Currently she is assistant minister of music at the Ebenezer AME Church in Charleston.

"The Gospel Choir plays a vital role in the Lowcountry's artistic heritage, and I enthusiastically look forward to building on its remarkable success," Barnhardt said.

Of his new position, Nelson said, "It is indeed an honor and privilege to work with such an elite organization like the CSO Gospel Choir. The ensemble will focus on preserving the authenticity of spirituals while integrating classic gospel music and various classical genres."

A native Charlestonian, Nelson has served as minister of music for the Tri-County Chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of America and currently teaches in the public school system, where he has served as a vocal trainer and choir director for many gospel singers.

He holds a Bachelor of Music degree in choral music and secondary education from Charleston Southern University. He is assistant director of music at Mount Zion AME Church in Charleston.

Reach Dottie Ashley at 937-5704 or dashley@postandcourier.com.