With degrees from St. Olaf College and the University of Wisconsin Madison, Ronald A. Nelson served for 37 years as Director of Music at Westwood Lutheran Church in suburban Minneapolis, where he has been named Cantor Emeritus and now serves as choir member. Since his retirement he devotes his time to composing, guest conducting, and serving as organist for Chapel Services at Becketwood, the Senior Cooperative where he and his wife Betty Lou reside. In 1999, he was one of 50 composers chosen to write music for the "Continental Harmony" project of the American Composers Forum and National Endowment for the Arts to celebrate the new millennium. That composition, "Building Bridges," received Honorable Mention in the Waging Peace Through Singing competition of the University of Oregon. For a 2001 Composers Forum "Faith Partners" Commission he wrote music for three Wisconsin parishes of different denominations, and is now doing a second "Faith Partners" for two parishes in Hutchinson, Minnesota. He is the recipient of a Distinguished Alumnus Award from St. Olaf College, the F. Melius Christiansen Award from Minnesota ACDA, and the Faithful Servant Award from the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, which last year made available a CD of his compositions.
In 2007 the book "With A Voice of Singing - Essays on Children, Choirs and Music in the Church" was published in his honor.