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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.
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. Zeltsman was inducted in the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 2022.
She established herself with the Boston composers’ consortium Composers in Red Sneakers (mid-1980s–1990s), 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-1990s, and has performed occasionally since 2015. Zeltsman has performed in a marimba duo with Jack Van Geem since 2000. Maestro Michael Tilson Thomas composed his 30-minute work Island Music for them. Their live performance (with percussionists of the San Francisco Symphony in 2005) can be heard on American Gifts for Marimba Duo (2020, Bridge Records).
Other composers with whom she has closely collaborated include Gunther Schuller, Steven Mackey, Robert Aldridge, Louis Andriessen, 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 Zeltsman (followed by many other compositions for percussion). She has composed several pieces herself. She has recorded three CDs as a soloist, three with Marimolin, two with Jack Van Geem, William Thomas McKinley’s marimba concerto Childhood Memories recorded with Boston Modern Orchestra project, and others. (Many of these are available on streaming services.)
Zeltsman 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, 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. Zeltsman 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 Zeltsman served as music editor.
Other contributions include Zeltsman's method book, Four-Mallet Marimba Playing: A Musical Approach for All Levels (Hal Leonard Corporation), now in its 7th edition. She 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. In 2021, she cofounded Threshold Music Project, sponsored by Pearl/Adams Concert Percussion, featuring new works for marimba and the Pearl EM1 malletSTATION (MIDI controller).
Zeltsman is a Pearl/Adams Artist. Adams Musical Instruments released the Nancy Zeltsman Signature marimba in 2021. For more than 20 years, the Nancy Zeltsman Series (eight graduated types of mallets) has been produced by Encore Mallets (Salyers Percussion). Zeltsman earned a B.M. in Percussion from New England Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Vic Firth. Other primary teachers and inspirations were Ian Finkel, Robert Ayers, Donald Marrs, and Double Image.
"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."