Neil Kimel began his horn studies in Chicago with Mary Gingrich and later continued with her husband Daniel, who is the Associate Principal Horn of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Neil received his B.A. in Cinema Studies from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee while concurrently studying the horn with Barry Benjamin. Mr. Kimel was invited to spend three seasons with the prestigious New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Florida, where he performed under the baton of its music director, Michael Tilson Thomas. Then Neil returned to his hometown of Chicago, where he frequently performed with most of Chicago’s leading ensembles. Summers were spent as a member of many festival orchestras, including Utah Festival Opera, Spoleto USA, the National Orchestral Institute, and the Tanglewood Music Center, where Mr. Kimel was awarded both the C.D. Jackson Memorial Prize and the Harry Shapiro Award for Outstanding Brass Playing.
In 2000, he won the position of second horn with Chicago’s Grant Park Orchestra, with whom he has recorded numerous times. Winters found Neil fleeing Chicago’s cold and snow for sunshine and warmth as the third horn of the Sarasota (FL) Opera Orchestra. In 2008, Sir Andrew Davis named Mr. Kimel Second Horn of the Lyric Opera Orchestra of Chicago. Additionally, he has performed as a guest with numerous ensembles, including the Symphony Orchestras of Kansas City, Nashville, Milwaukee, Calgary, St. Louis, Toronto, Dallas, Detroit, Chicago, and the Cleveland Orchestra, with whom he toured to Vienna playing in the famed Musikverein.
Neil is also an active chamber musician who helped create The Lyric Ensemble, with whom he most recently performed Mozart’s Horn Quintet. He has also enjoys collaborating onstage with his wife, mezzo-soprano soloist Susan Platts and has done so at DePaul University, the Société d’art vocal de Montréal, St. John’s Smith Square in London, as well as live on BBC Radio 3.
When Neil leaves the opera pit, he is a member of Tower Brass of Chicago, a chamber music coach at Northwestern University, on the adjunct horn faculty at DePaul University, and Principal Horn of the Chicago Philharmonic, with whom he has appeared as a soloist. Privately and in masterclasses around North America, he coaches musicians of all instruments in audition preparation and practice techniques that lead players to a more consistent performance.
His favorite memory of playing at Lyric Opera of Chicago was at the completion of the last Ring Cycle when everyone ran up the stairs from the pit after the last note of the very last performance of Götterdämmerung. As the curtain went up to thunderous applause, the entire orchestra stood on stage with the cast and chorus to face the exuberantly appreciative audience.