Nancy Zeltsman

Professor

"What I love about the Marimba Transcriptions and Repertoire lab is that students can make adaptations or arrangements of any style of music they want. They bring in everything from Debussy to indie rock, tangos or Japanese pop music—the whole gamut. I want students to arrange music they dig, as opposed to just having to play what somebody else deems 'marimba music.' Their pieces become a personal mark that reflects their taste."

"One of the hardest things about playing marimba is that you need an eight-and-a-half-foot wingspan. Note accuracy is the bane of our existence. A bar of a marimba is something like an inch and a half wide, so as you're flailing around over eight and a half feet, the challenge is to be able to swing a mallet and hit the right target."

"Players can also get caught up in the athleticism. We like that people enjoy a concert, aside from the beautiful sound, because it's fun to watch. But we always need to get back to the music we're trying to make. I'm constantly reminding everybody that technique is just a means to saying something through your instrument."

"In ensembles, you're playing with instruments that produce sounds in a different way. The issue is where the front of a note happens. A mallet comes down at a certain point: bing. Whereas the front of a violinist's note is not as sharp. The challenge is to figure out, are we going to meet in the middle, or try to emulate each other? Sometimes one will say, 'I'll go with you and make a sharp attack,' or the other will say, 'I'll go with you and try to make a gentler attack.'"

Career Highlights

 

  • B.M., New England Conservatory of Music
  • Chair, Percussion Department, Boston Conservatory
  • Marimba concerts throughout the U.S., Europe, Japan, and Mexico
  • Former member of the marimba/violin duo Marimolin, 1985–1996
  • Has premiered over 125 works for marimba solo or marimba within chamber music
  • Recordings include three solo CDs (Sweet Song, See Ya Thursday, Woodcuts), one marimba duo CD (Pedro and Olga Learn to Dance), as well as three CDs with Marimolin (Marimolin, Phantasmata, Combo Platter)
  • Artistic director and founder of Zeltsman Marimba Festival, Inc.
  • Author of Four Mallet Marimba Playing: A Musical Approach for All Levels (Hal Leonard)
  • Endorses Marimba One marimbas and her signature line of mallets produced by Encore Mallets