On Teaching Piano

I am convinced that students need to love what they play, and I aim to find pieces that inspire and motivate!   I enjoy working with all ages and levels, from young children to transfer students and adults.  When I bring in a new student, I build on that student’s strengths and interests as a basis for discovering their underlying musical passions.

I strive to make the learning process fresh and exciting.  With a background of extensive study under master piano teachers, a M.M. degree in Kodály music education and years of teaching experience, I am able to help students develop as complete musicians.  Classical music is the cornerstone of my teaching repertoire, but I also include jazz and popular pieces. I emphasize the fundamentals of chords and theory to help students develop a deeper understanding of the music they are playing. This provides a springboard for them to play by ear, compose and arrange their own music. 

Nancie has so many strengths—musician, composer, artist and devoted student of human nature. Our lessons are a dialogue about the work, light-hearted in some respects, but thoroughly disciplined and productive. She is an outstanding person to have as mentor and guide.
— Susann Calkins, Adult Student, Private Studio
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My garden music studio is a tranquil setting with materials and teaching aids close at hand.  I teach on both a Knight upright and a Yamaha C3 grand piano. Lessons are either 45 minutes or one hour in length, depending on age and level of student.  Throughout the year, students have the opportunity to play for each other in several low-pressure studio workshops, designed to foster confidence in performing.  In the spring, students play in a formal recital with parents and other family members in attendance.  These events take place in my spacious living room. 

My former students have excelled in many capacities, including: participating in the Junior Bach Festival, winning awards in classical competitions, directing and performing in successful jazz/rock groups, and making recordings and videos. Most importantly, they acquire a deep love of playing piano that lasts throughout their lives. 

Past recital program and invitation covers

As a calligrapher and artist, I also design the programs for my students' Spring recitals.




  • Played piano by ear and sang from age 3
  • Studied piano with Dorothy G. Knowlton from age 7 through high school
  • Improvised, composed small pieces and arranged popular songs for piano



  • B.A. in Music Composition and Piano:  California State University,
      East Bay, Hayward, California
  • Studied composition, music theory and orchestration under Frederic Fox,
      Ernst Gloe and Robert Basart
  • Studied piano at SCUEB with Julian White
  • Wrote numerous compositions for piano and other instrumental ensembles



  •  M.M. in Music Education, Kodaly Emphasis, (instrumental focus, piano): 
      Holy Names University, Oakland, California
      Piano Instructor: Marilyn Thompson
  • Taught Kodaly music education in public schools
  • Developed and implemented a Kodaly paraprofessional training program with funding from the Gerbode Foundation and Oakland Public Schools




  • Developed Private Studio, teaching piano, guitar, recorder, theory, and music composition
      -Held workshops and formal recitals for students throughout the years of private teaching
      -Students have participated in the Berkeley Jr. Bach Festival and have won piano competitions
  • Joined Music Department Faculty at Contra Costa & Diablo Valley Colleges, teaching piano or all levels, music theory, and music literature
  •  Received consistently high ranks in teaching evaluations at community colleges.
  •  Continued piano studies with Madeline Bruser, Jessica Klass and Julian White
  •  Wrote Folksongs for Piano Ensemble: arrangements in 21 different keys for piano duo, suitable for group piano classes and private studios
  •  Performed as a pianist in Faculty Recitals at Diablo Valley College, including “Northern Lights,” an original work for piano duo.
  •  Performed as a piano soloist and member of a piano duo in other venues and concerts, including the Grace Presbyterian Church Concert Series in Walnut Creek and at the Sherman and Clay Piano Series in Walnut Creek
  •  Performed original works at the Music Teachers Association of California annual Conference
  •  Performed as accompanist for numerous concerts, including three featuring Amy Ream and Marcelle Dronkers, sopranos.