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“The velvety, rich-toned allure of Nancy Zeltsman”* has delighted audiences and made a mark on a generation of marimbists, as have her commissioning efforts, recordings and decades of teaching. Zeltsman was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 2022. 

She has premiered over 130 solo and chamber music compositions including pieces by Gunther Schuller, Michael Tilson Thomas, Robert Aldridge, Steven Mackey, Lyle Mays, Paul Simon, Carla Bley, and Louis Andriessen. Alejandro Viñao and Paul Lansky both wrote their first marimba compositions for Nancy (followed by many others). 

The ever-astonishing Nancy Zeltsman played with sparkling rhythmic inflection, stamina, speed, accuracy, and a full spectrum of colors. 

– Richard Dyer, The Boston Globe

Zeltsman is a professor at joint institutions Berklee College of Music and Boston Conservatory at Berklee
. She has taught marimba at both schools since 1993 in positions that were created for her. Since 2013, she has been regular guest professor of marimba at Conservatorium van Amsterdam; and, since 2021, a Guest Artist teaching two weeks per year at University of Michigan. 

Nancy has presented master classes 
across the United States and Europe, and in Japan, China, Mexico and Brazil – at The Juilliard School, Curtis Institute of Music, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Lawrence Conservatory of Music (Appleton, WI), Cleveland Institute of Music, Royal College of Music (London), Académie supérieure de musique (Strasbourg, France), Escola Superior de Música (Lisbon, Portugal) and more. She has performed or presented at 12 Percussive Arts Society International Conventions and at PAS chapter events in 17 states and Stockholm, Sweden. 

Nancy performs as a soloist and chamber musician – most often with violinist Sharan Leventhal
 as the duo Marimolin, or with marimbist Jack Van Geem. 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).

You play with your soul, and inside my soul.

– a note from an audience member, Mexico City

Marimolin's first, self-titled CD (GM Recordings, produced by Gunther Schuller) received wide acclaim including being named “Classical CD of the Month” in CD Review magazine, and bestowed a perfect “10/10” rating (for performance/sound quality, March 1990). It was also nominated for a Grammy in the chamber music category. The duo’s third CD, Combo Platter (Catalyst/BMG, out of print) was named “Disc of the Month” in the June 1995 issue of CD ReviewIn addition to those CDs and three solo marimba CDs, Nancy recorded William Thomas McKinley’s marimba concerto with Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Her second CD with Jack Van Geem, American Gifts for Marimba Duo, was released in 2020 (Bridge Records).

Over 600 marimba-playing participants attended Zeltsman Marimba Festival events between 2001 and 2018. As Artistic Director, Nancy organized 14 two-week festivals at different venues across the U.S. and in Amsterdam, and performed and taught at ZMF On Tour events (short festivals) in China, Japan, Luxembourg and Boston. An offshoot project, ZMF New Music (coordinated with Shawn Michalek), funded by over 200 contributors, fostered 24 marimba solos published as Intermediate Masterworks for Marimba (C.F. Peters Corporation), and recorded by eight marimbists (Bridge Records double-CD). Nancy co-founded and continues as an advisor for Threshold Music Project.

Other contributions to the field include Nancy'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). In 2019, she was a jury member for the International Artist Competition hosted by Southern California Marimba, and the Percussive Arts Society’s marimba composition contest. Zeltsman is a Pearl/Adams Artist who worked with Adams Musical Instruments to design the Alpha wood Z-frame endpieces of the Nancy Zeltsman Signature marimba (released in 2021). Her popular line of signature mallets is available from Encore Mallets

Zeltsman graduated from New England Conservatory of Music with a BM in percussion performance (1982) where she studied with Vic Firth. Other teachers included Ian Finkel, Robert Ayers, Donald Marrs, Dave Samuels (jazz improvisation), and 
William Thomas McKinley (composition). Nancy lives in Boston, Massachusetts. 

Last updated December 2022 | Short bio

* Colin Currie, “Taking center stage: percussionist as soloist,” The Cambridge Companion to Percussion (Cambridge University 

Photo: Claudia Hansen

Copyright 2023 Nancy Zeltsman