He started reading as a toddler, played piano at age 3 and delivered a high school commencement speech in cap and gown when he was just 10.
Brandenn Bremmer was a child prodigy: He composed and recorded music, won piano competitions, breezed through college courses with an off-the-charts IQ and mastered everything from archery to photography.
Then, last Tuesday, Brandenn was found dead in his Nebraska home from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. He was just 14. He left no note.
"Sometimes we wonder if maybe the physical, earthly world didn't offer him enough challenges and he felt it was time to move on and do something great," his mother, Patricia, said from the family home in Venango, Neb., a few miles from the Colorado border.
Brandenn showed no signs of depression, she said. He had just shown his family the art for the cover of his new CD that was about to be released.
He was, according to his family and teachers, an extraordinary blend of fun-loving child and serious adult. He loved Harry Potter and Mozart. He watched cartoons and enjoyed video games but gave classical piano concerts for hundreds of people -- without a hint of stage fright.
"He wasn't just talented, he was just a really nice young man," said David Wohl, an assistant professor at Colorado State University, where Brandenn studied music after high school.
Patricia Bremmer -- who writes mysteries and has long raised dogs with her husband, Martin -- said they both knew their son was special from the moment he was born. The brown-haired, blue-eyed boy was reading when he was 18 months old and entering classical piano competitions by age 4.
"He was born an adult," his mother said. "We just watched his body grow bigger."
He scored 178 on one IQ test -- a test his mother said he was too bored to finish.
Brandenn was taking biology at Mid-Plains Community College in North Platte, Neb., and had recently decided he wanted to become an anesthesiologist. He also had studied for years at Colorado State, polishing piano skills that had won him state competitions and a table-full of trophies.
Brandenn turned away from his classical roots and started writing his own spiritual, New Age-style music, passing on a demo of one piano piece to the musician Yanni at a Nebraska concert. He released a CD called "Elements" and gave concerts in Colorado and Nebraska. He was booked for a concert in Kansas next year.
His music will live on -- the Bremmers plan to release his second CD for fans who range from nuns to cancer patients to the owners of a New York restaurant who play the music for their patrons.
His family, meanwhile, wonders why he is gone. "We're trying to rationalize now," his mother said. "He had this excessive need to help people and teach people. ... He was so connected with the spiritual world. We felt he could hear people's needs and desires and their cries. We just felt like something touched him that day and he knew he had to leave" to save others.
And so, she said, Brandenn's kidneys were donated to two people, his liver went to a 22-month-old and his heart to an 11-year-old boy.