Nancy Zeltsman

Nancy Zeltsman was born in 1958 in Morristown, New Jersey. She studied piano starting at age five and then took up percussion when she was thirteen. She studied intensely with Ian Finkel during high school, focusing on mallet sight-reading. In 1976, Nancy went to the New England Conservatory of Music to study percussion with Vic Firth. After taking a year off to live in New York City, Nancy returned to New England Conservatory in 1982 to complete her Bachelor of Music degree in percussion performance. Nancy has been playing marimba exclusively ever since.

Nancy now lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has been teaching at The Boston Conservatory and Berklee College of Music since 1993. She has served as Chair of the Percussion Department at The Boston Conservatory since 2005. She has approximately 30 marimba students. Nancy is the founder and director of Zeltsman Marimba Festival, a two-week long summer event held each year. It includes a training seminar for about 35 marimba students and a series of faculty concerts open to the public.

Nancy Zeltsman has presented numerous marimba recitals and master classes in the United States, Mexico, Japan, and Europe. In August 1998, Nancy was one of twelve international players featured at The World Marimba Festival in Osaka, Japan. She served as a judge for the International Competition for Students in Paris, and was a member of the jury for the first Belgium International Marimba Competition in August 2001. In August 2006, Nancy was featured at the Fukui Marimba Seminar-Summer Master Course in Japan. In August 2003, 2004, and 2005, she performed and taught master classes at Il Curso Internacional de Percusión in Spain.

For more than 20 years, Nancy has greatly contributed to the expansion of repertoire for solo marimba. Numerous marimba solos have been composed specifically for Nancy Zeltsman. These include works by Louis Andriessen, Paul Lansky, David Friedman, Gunther Schuller, and Steven Mackey. Nancy has recorded three solo marimba CDs. These include: “Woodcuts” (1993), “See Ya Thursday” (1998), and “Sweet Song” (2005). In 2004, she recorded a duo marimba CD with Jack Van Geem, called “Pedro and Olga Learn to Dance”. Nancy also has a comprehensive marimba method book, “Four Mallet Marimba Playing: A Musical Approach for All Levels.” Nancy endorses Marimba One marimbas and the “Nancy Zeltsman Series” of Encore Mallets.

I had the privilege of attending the 2008 marimba festival held by the University of South Florida. Nancy Zeltsman was one of the featured performers. She explained her background in marimba during the clinic that followed her performance. As a freshman, her lessons consisted strictly of mallet sight-reading. She had to play through any piece her instructor put in front of her, leaving no chance for a second try or pause during a piece. She believes this was an experimental method, but was grateful that it gave her the ability to read any piece on marimba with ease. She does not memorize her marimba music for performances, contrary to common methods in mallet percussion. I was very impressed that she could perform piece after piece, eyes locked on the page and not the keys of the marimba. Nancy is a very creative and unique performer that puts her personality into her repertoire. She not only plays marimba beautifully, but also captures the audience’s attention through her vibrant visual performance.