Nancy Zeltsman

Professor of Marimba
Affiliated Departments
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Nancy Zeltsman joined the Conservatory in 1993 and is a professor of marimba and chamber music. Additionally, she has taught at Berklee College of Music since 1993. 

Nancy’s Zeltsman’s four-decade career as a marimba specialist has focused on chamber music and solo performances worldwide, commissions and premieres of over 130 marimba compositions, creative adaptations to further expand the repertoire, and numerous CD recordings. Many of her former students are noted professionals.

She established herself with the Boston composers’ consortium Composers in Red Sneakers (mid-80s-90s), and the acclaimed marimba/violin duo Marimolin with fellow faculty violinist Sharan Leventhal (formed in 1985). Their work is responsible for what is likely the largest body of pieces—more than 80—for marimba and any non-percussion instrument. The duo was very active until the mid-90s, and has performed occasionally since 2015. Zeltsman has performed in a marimba duo with Jack Van Geem since 2000. Since 2021, Threshold Music Project, co-directed with Paul Fadoul, is commissioning duos for marimba and the Pearl EM1 malletSTATION (MIDI controller).

Composers with whom Nancy has closely collaborated include Gunther Schuller, Steven Mackey, Robert Aldridge, Louis Andriessen, maestro Michael Tilson Thomas, pop legend Paul Simon, and jazz composers/pianists Lyle Mays and Carla Bley. Alejandro Viñao and Paul Lansky both wrote their first marimba compositions for Nancy (followed by many other compositions for percussion). She has composed several pieces herself. Zeltsman has recorded three CDs as a soloist, three with Marimolin, two with Jack Van Geem including American Gifts for Marimba Duo (2020), William Thomas McKinley’s marimba concerto Childhood Memories recorded with Boston Modern Orchestra project, and others. (Many of these are available on streaming services.) 

Nancy has presented numerous marimba recitals and master classes across the United States and Europe and in China, Japan, Mexico and Brazil. She was described as “virtuosic” by The New York Times, and “a wonderful player of the instrument” by The Boston Globe: “She could convince you that anything was possible from it.” Performance venues have included the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music, Ravinia Festival, subscription concerts with the San Francisco Symphony, Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall and Merkin Concert Hall (New York), Shenzhen Concert Hall (China), and Harmony Hall (Fukui, Japan).

Over 600 marimba-playing participants attended Zeltsman Marimba Festival events between 2001-2018. Nancy organized 14 two-week festivals at different venues across the U.S. and in Amsterdam, and performed and taught at short festivals called “ZMF On Tour” in China, Japan, Luxembourg and Boston. An offshoot project, ZMF New Music, funded by over 200 contributors, fostered 24 marimba solos—Intermediate Masterworks for Marimba—that were recorded by eight marimbists (Bridge Records), and published in two volumes (C.F. Peters Corporation) for which Nancy served as music editor.

Other contributions include Nancy's method book, Four-Mallet Marimba Playing: A Musical Approach for All Levels (Hal Leonard Corporation), now in its 7th edition. Zeltsman served four times as a member of the jury for the biennial Tromp Percussion Competition in Eindhoven, the Netherlands (2010-2016), and has been a jury member at marimba competitions in Paris, Belgium and Southern California, and for the Percussive Arts Society’s marimba composition contest. She has been regular guest professor of marimba at Conservatorium van Amsterdam since 2013, and a Guest Artist at University of Michigan since 2021, teaching one to two weeks per year at each.

Nancy is a Pearl/Adams Artist. Adams Musical Instruments released the “Nancy Zeltsman Signature” marimba in 2021. Encore Mallets has produced the “Nancy Zeltsman Series” (eight graduated types of mallets) for over 20 years. Zeltsman earned a B.M. in Percussion from New England Conservatory where she studied with Vic Firth. Other primary teachers and inspirations were Ian Finkel, Robert Ayers, Donald Marrs and Double Image. 

In Their Own Words

"My goal as a teacher is to help each student become his or her best self: a unique, individual artist/performer. I believe this is achievable through broad general knowledge (context), thoughtful repertoire choices, and developing one's own capacity for musical expression."

Steven Snowden: 'Through the Looking Glass,' performed by Marimolin & Duane Lee Holland, Jr.

Andrew Patzig: 'Bunkers of Alvira'

Leo Blanco: 'La Resistencia,' performed by Marimolin

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