Nancy Zeltsman

Position
Professor
Affiliated Departments
Faculty Bio E-Mail
Telephone
617-747-8420

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Nancy Zeltsman joined the Conservatory faculty in 1993 and teaches marimba performance and chamber music. Additionally, she has taught at Berklee College of Music since 1993.

Zeltsman has premiered over 125 solo and chamber marimba works including pieces by Michael Tilson Thomas, Paul Simon, Gunther Schuller, Louis Andriessen, Carla Bley, Lyle Mays and Steven Mackey. She has performed throughout the United States and Europe and in Mexico, Brazil, China, and Japan as a soloist and chamber musician. Her duo, Marimolin, with fellow faculty member violinist Sharan Leventhal was very active between 1985 to 1996, and has performed together occasionally since 2015. Zeltsman released three CDs with Marimolin (the first of which, Marimolin, was nominated for a Grammy in the chamber music category), three solo CDs, and she was the soloist in William Thomas McKinley’s marimba concerto recorded by Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Her second CD with Jack Van Geem was released by Bridge Records in 2020: American Gifts for Marimba Duo featuring Michael Tilson Thomas’s Island Music (written for Zeltsman and Van Geem and performed with the San Francisco Symphony percussion section) along with music of Roger Sessions, Irving Fine, and Joseph Brackett.

Zeltsman's method book, Four-Mallet Marimba Playing: A Musical Approach for All Levels (Hal Leonard Corporation, now in its 7th edition) is widely used. Over 600 marimba-playing participants attended Zeltsman Marimba Festival events between 2001 and 2018. As artistic director, Zeltsman organized 14 two-week festivals at different venues across the U.S. and in Amsterdam, and performed and taught at ZMF On Tour events in China, Japan, Luxembourg, and Boston. An offshoot project (coordinated with Conservatory alumnus Shawn Michalek), funded by over 200 contributors, fostered 24 marimba solos published as Intermediate Masterworks for Marimba (C.F. Peters Corporation), and was recorded by eight marimbists (Bridge Records double-CD). Since 2013, she has been a regular guest professor of marimba at Conservatorium van Amsterdam in the Netherlands where she has taught one or two weeks per year.

Zeltsman served four times as a member of the jury for the biennial Tromp Percussion Competition in Eindhoven, the Netherlands (2010–2016). In 2019, she was a jury member for the International Artist Competition hosted by Southern California Marimba (founded and directed by BCB alumna Christina Cheon), and the Percussive Arts Society’s marimba composition contest. Zeltsman is a Pearl/Adams Artist who worked with Adams Musical Instruments to design their Alpha Z marimba frame. Her popular line of signature mallets is available from Encore Mallets.

Career Highlights
  • Marimba concerts throughout the U.S., Europe, Japan, and Mexico
  • Has premiered over 125 works for marimba solo or marimba within chamber music
  • Member of the marimba/violin duo Marimolin, 1985–1996, and occasional performances since 2015
  • Recordings include three solo albums (Sweet Song, See Ya Thursday, Woodcuts), one marimba duo albums (Pedro and Olga Learn to Dance), three albums with Marimolin (Marimolin, Phantasmata, Combo Platter), as well as a marimba concerto (by William Thomas McKinley) with Boston Modern Orchestra Project
  • Artistic Director and founder of Zeltsman Marimba Festival, Inc.
  • Author of Four Mallet Marimba Playing: A Musical Approach for All Levels (Hal Leonard)
  • Project coordinator and editor of Intermediate Masterworks for Marimba: A Collection of Solos by 24 Composers (C.F. Peters Corporation)
  • Endorses Adams marimbas (as a Pearl/Adams artist) and her signature line of mallets produced by Encore Mallets
  • Chair, Percussion Department, Boston Conservatory at Berklee
Education
  • B.M., New England Conservatory of Music
In Their Own Words

"I hope my students come away from marimba lessons with greater appreciation for the instrument and its capacity to be a vehicle for self-expression. Presumably students come to specialize in music because of a deep pull to it. Music has made them feel a sense of joy, or community, or provided a place to lose themselves. What music can be is as varied as its practitioners. I believe every musician has a personal voice: their own story, their own value, some way they need to communicate and connect. The arts uplift and connect to human spirit, and the world needs this!"

"My approach to teaching is therefore driven by musical expression and meaning—with every level of player. To me, it’s as (or more) important to play with a beautiful sound, balance, and sense of phrasing as to get all the right notes or (only) show you can play fast. Its the former qualities that reveal an individual's soul, sensitivity, and uniqueness."

"My hope is to guide serious marimbists to be commanding artists; to guide well-rounded percussionists to an understanding of how melodic/chordal playing can inform their musicianship and ensemble work; to guide drum set principals to see what’s fun about the keyboard side of things, and how it's relevant to their drumming."

"I love teaching Marimba Ensembles 2 and 3—to enable players to work on playing with other keyboard percussionists; and Marimba in Mixed Chamber Music Ensemble—to enable keyboard percussionists to play with non-percussion instruments. Ensemble playing is an enormously important skill and rich experience."

"In my course Marimba Transcriptions and Repertoire Lab, students adapt or arrange music of any style—to be played as a keyboard percussion solo, or in small ensembles. Over the years, musical styles chosen by students have spanned classical to modern, indie rock, jazz standards, Japanese pop music, film soundtracks, and much more. It’s a workshop environment in which students sight-read each other’s pieces in progress and provide each other feedback and support. It gives students a chance to explore possibilities. Their projects expand the repertoire, and can be a pivotal means toward developing their individual voices as artists."

"I come from being a well-rounded concert percussionists but, about 35 years ago, made the unusual choice to specialize on the marimba. Since then, it has been thrilling for me to be one of the pioneers of the marimba as a solo and chamber music instrument. I think the generation of students I’ve taught and continue to work with are ALL pioneers too! As we grow musically as individuals, we all have important contributions to make in its advancement."

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