Mormon Tabernacle Choir Blog

Photo by Markus Gjengaar on Unsplash

Did You Know President Russell M. Nelson Has Perfect Pitch?

On January 14, 2018, Russell M. Nelson was set apart as the 17th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since 1984 and as President of that quorum since 2015.  

Nelson is known by members of the Church and around the world for being a top heart surgeon. He helped develop the first artificial heart-lung machine, which supports circulation during open heart surgery. The machine made open-heart surgery attainable, and President Nelson performed the first surgery of its kind in Utah in 1955. 

To go along with his unique ability to mend hearts through his medical skill, he also has the ability to touch hearts through his musical gifts. Nelson has the rare trait of perfect pitch—the ability to identify or play a musical note without a reference tone. Studies have shown that only one in 10,000 people have perfect pitch, which is also known as absolute pitch.

An article in the Youth section of LDS.org reported about Nelson’s perfect pitch ability: “It’s pretty much a musical superpower. If you ask him to sing an ‘A’ on the musical scale, he can do it without needing to hear it first. In high school and college, President Nelson sang in choirs and musicals.” President Nelson is also a pianist and plays the organ during quorum meetings. 

In a 2008 fireside at Brigham Young University, Russell M. Nelson gave a talk titled “The Power and Protection of Worthy Music.” He quoted several hymns and spoke of the influence of music, noting, “Worthy music is powerful. It has the power to make us humble, prayerful, and grateful.”

Throughout the talk, President Nelson’s passion for music is evident. Like his ability to be pitch perfect, his message about worthy music hits all the right notes. His thoughtfully chosen words, quotes, and hymn lyrics reiterate his message about the power and protection of music. He highlighted his talk by saying, “Music has power to provide spiritual nourishment. It has healing power. It has the power to facilitate worship, allowing us to contemplate the Atonement and the Restoration of the gospel, with its saving principles and exalting ordinances. It provides power for us to express prayerful thoughts and bear testimony of sacred truths.”

Listen to the Choir sing “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” which is a hymn mentioned in President Nelson’s talk on music: