Bradley Richard Nelson was born July 24, 1950, to Gene and Norma Nelson at Mercy Hospital in San Diego, California.
Brad attended Northmont Elementary, Parkway Junior High, and graduated from Grossmont High School in 1968, where he ran cross country, ran track as a 'miler,' sang in the renowned Red Robe Choir, and was student body president. He accepted Jesus as his Savior in his parents' living room when he was four years old, and he was baptized at the age of eight.
Brad attended University of Redlands, where he met his wife, Merryl Perry, and graduated in 1972, with a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Composition. While attending college, Brad worked part-time as the recording technician for the School of Music, sang in concert choir, played in jazz band, and started an Intervarsity Christian Fellowship folk group with eight other students called "The Bought and Paid For."
Brad and Merryl were married July 28, 1973, and moved across the country to Rochester, New York, where he attended Eastman School of Music and received his Master's and Doctorate degrees in Music Composition and Conducting. After graduation, Brad and Merryl moved to Indianapolis in 1976, where he taught Music Theory and Composition at Butler University, while concurrently directing the music program at Castleview Baptist Church. He eventually left college teaching to become the full-time church music director at Castleview, where he conducted a 60-voice choir, brass ensemble, handbell choir, and oversaw a graded children's choir program. It was in Indianapolis that Brad and Merryl's two sons, Noel and Paul, were born.
In 1984, Brad and Merryl were called to San Diego to lead the music ministry at Brad's home church, College Avenue Baptist. Under Brad's direction, the music program at CABC grew to include a 150-voice choir, full orchestra, graded handbell choirs, and graded children's choirs. During his years at Castleview and College Avenue, Brad was also composing church choral music which his choirs performed. In addition, his choirs performed many concert works such as Handel's Messiah, Mendelssohn's Hymn of Praise, Brahms' Requiem, and The Many Moods of Christmas.
Brad always strove for excellence in all that he did, but especially in sacred music. Because of his love for the Lord, his strong conviction was that our musical offerings to God must be of the highest caliber and performed with our highest standard of excellence. This intensity was balanced by Brad's fun sense of humor, his love of people, and his warmth and kindness. He was a gifted leader.
In 1995, Brad left CABC and began composing full-time, while also developing one of the first composer's websites on the internet and established his own publishing company, Gladde Music Publications. At this point, he concentrated on secular choral music for high school and college choirs. Merryl was directing a high school choral program at Granite Hills High School during this period, and often performed Brad's music with her choirs. He also was one of the piano accompanists for her choirs and was an integral part of the program, attending festivals and concerts and going on choir trips. The students adored him and took great pride in singing his choral pieces, especially Irish Blessing which closed their spring choral concert each year.
Brad was passionate about music, a gifted teacher and conductor, and inspired so many singers to live up to their God-given potential. He was a loving, involved, and supportive Dad, who encouraged his boys to pursue their dreams and cultivate their individual talents, all the while beaming with pride at their accomplishments. He spent many hours watching the boys’ little league baseball games, going fishing, teaching them guitar, and going on father-son surf trips to Baja. And he was the same with his wife, Merryl, so proud of her accomplishments and identity as a musician in her own right and oh so appreciative of her cooking. He used to tease her, saying “Yep I taught you everything you know!” And of course that brought a good laugh. He was his family's biggest fan, always so proud of each one of them. The tremendous love he had for his family was demonstrated in his committed provision for them. He was the best of dads and husbands and he will be missed!
Brad went home to the Lord on Saturday, April 30, at 8:02 p.m. He is preceded in death by his father, Morris Eugene Nelson; his mother, Norma Gayton Nelson; and his stepfather, Taylor Leak.
He is survived by his wife of almost 49 years, Merryl; his two sons, Noel Nelson (Stephanie) and Paul Nelson; his siblings, Steve Nelson (Sue), Linda Perry, and Ken Nelson; three nephews, one niece, and two grandsons.
Brad's celebration of life will be held Sunday, May 15, 2:00 p.m., at Torrey Pines Church, 8320 La Jolla Scenic Drive N, La Jolla, California 92037.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be given to Samaritan’s Purse in Brad’s memory. The link for his memorial page on the Samaritan’s Purse website is below.