Arladell Bond Nelson

1936 - 

Arladell Nelson, voice teacher and choir director, taught at Lodi Academy in California; Walla Walla College, now University; Mount Ellis Academy in Montana; and Monterey Bay Academy in California. During her long tenure at MBA, from 1969 to 1998, she became a legend in developing voices and outstanding choral groups. Her choir, The Oceanaires, was the only choir from the United States to be invited to sing in the Easter Chorale Spectacular in Sydney, Australia, in 1993.

Arladell, born and raised in California, grew up in a musical family. Whenever the extended family gathered, music was a central activity, with piano solos and duets and singing. She began playing melodies by ear on the piano at age four and years later talked about how it was discovered she had perfect pitch:

When I was nine, I was having lunch with my mom and step-dad and a classical singer was singing real high. My step-dad said, "I wonder what that note is?" I said, "Well that's an __ and I named a pitch." So he rushed to the piano to see if it was what I had said it was. That's when they discovered I had perfect pitch. That ability to know pitches was something that was like knowing colors. I also learned very early that I was able to easily do musical improvisation.

Her first piano teacher was her mother, and later, when she was living with her grandmother, a professional pianist, she continued study with her. During this time, she was practicing an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon.

Clara Howland at San Andreas, California, and Yvonne Caro Howard, music teacher at Lodi Academy, were two teachers who particularly inspired her. While at Lodi, she played duo-piano music with another student, and when they completed their senior year in academy, as a graduation present Howard took them to have an extended lesson from a well-known duo-piano team.

Following graduation from Lodi Academy in 1954, Arladell attended La Sierra College, now University. While there, she studied with and worked for John T. Hamilton and sang in the La Sierrans, the select vocal ensemble at LSC, for four years. She later recalled:

John T. played a major role in helping me develop and grow as a person and musician. I accompanied in his voice lessons and learned how to teach lessons and direct choirs by observing him. I also gleaned much from his world of knowledge and his joy of music. He helped me learn self-confidence by entrusting me with many musical responsibilities. During that time I also played for Del Delker's voice lessons. She was a joy to have as a friend and enriched my life greatly!

From her earliest years, Arladell had wanted to teach music. This desire was reinforced through the years as she attended school and observed how important music was in creating excitement and a deeper spiritual experience in her own life and in the lives of other students.

The year before graduation from LSC in 1958, she traveled to Europe in a summer music and history tour group with John T. Hamilton. After graduating, she taught for a year at Lodi Academy before accepting a position at WWC to teach voice, where she taught for a year.

During that year, Arladell met Lowell Nelson, one of her voice students, who was two years older and a senior biology major. They married in 1961 and then taught at Mount Ellis Academy in Montana for eight years, until 1969, when they were invited to teach at Monterey Bay Academy. The rest of Nelson's teaching career was spent at MBA, where she provided an inspiring choral and spiritual experience for her students, while finding ultimate fulfillment as a musician and teacher.

In those years Nelson received numerous awards and recognition for her work. She received the Thomas and Violet Zapara Excellence in Teaching Award in 1992, an award for her work as a choral clinician at the SDA Music Camp in the Central California Conference in 1993, and a Paul Harris Fellow Award from Rotary International for her work in "furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations between peoples of the world" in 1997. The Music Teachers of the Northern and Central California Conference also gave her a merit award for her dedication to music education in 1998 and, in 2000, she was honored as Lodi Academy Alumnus of the Year.

Following her retirement in 1998, she served as minister of music at the Auburn Adventist Church in California, and at Pine Hills Academy while Lowell taught anatomy and physiology at Weimar Institute. Following his retirement, she served as minister of music at the Adventist church in Carmichael, California. In 2004, the Women's Ministries Department and the Northern California Conference of SDA gave Nelson the Woman of Distinction Award in appreciation for her contribution in Special Services at the Carmichael SDA Church.

In reflecting on her life and career, Nelson recently observed:

I feel I have been truly fortunate to be able to spend my life working in music and with young people. I was truly blessed to be able to share my love of great music with my students and encourage them to discover the greater joy of serving the Lord in music.


Sources: Interview, 2007; The Walla Walla College student newspaper, The Collegian, 8 October 1959.