Student Testimonials

Through thick and thin, I always had music and piano lessons that allowed me to escape the pressure and stress of school.  You helped me cultivate my artistic side and many of my favorite classical pieces are ones that I learned with you like Brahms’ “Rhapsody in G Minor,” Ravel’s “Sonatine,” Debussy’s “Pour le Piano,” culminating in my senior year when you guided me through the daunting “Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #1.”  For me, playing piano was always out of love for the instrument and I truly thank you for helping me nurture that love for so many years.  It will stay with me forever.

Karina Choy


Nancie was the best piano teacher I could have had. We had fun. She didn't let me accept mediocrity but didn't sacrifice the fun and our relationship in pursuit of some elusive level of piano greatness. She played at my wedding years after my final recital. Life is busy now, kids, grad school plus a job. I haven't made the time to tell her how much it meant to me that she played at my wedding. How it made me feel connected to that time long ago when I would sit in the calm quiet of Nancie's studio, in the space before she arrived, and tap out some soft chords. Not imagining possibilities. Just being.

Andy Hanauer


Nancie, now that I have started teaching lessons, I can only aspire to the level of instruction you provided me.  How well I remember working our way backwards through pieces, going over difficult fingerings and articulations, getting frustrated and antsy and arching my back to the floor over the piano bench.  Now I can appreciate your patience with me!  And of course your expertise with the repertoire, knowing which pieces were suitable for my level, and then sight reading them perfectly so I could choose what I was most inspired by.  From Hot Cross Buns to the Circle of 5ths, we explored classical, jazz, and even my own songs.  Your recitals were always so perfectly planned and put together. Definitely a good motivation for practice as well!  I remember how nervous I would get to perform and then that feeling of accomplishment when everyone is clapping.  Many of my students do not seem excited when I arrive.  After all, playing piano takes practice, focus, and hard work.  I tell them that I was the same way until one day everything just clicked and I was caught by the beauty of the music.  I cannot thank you enough for believing in me and for giving me my greatest tools of expression.

Zachary Sorgen, piano teacher and leader of band: “Wake the Wild”


I have so many fond memories of piano lessons with Nancie that it’s hard to pick just one! I always enjoyed the short walk to her house and knowing that no matter what else was going on in my life, for the next hour it would be me, Nancie and music.  Nancie always greeted me at the door with such a warm smile and made me feel right at home. We’d usually share a laugh or two over funny little things and even when I didn’t do the best job or when I didn’t practice enough, Nancie was always encouraging and sweet. 

I still play the piano and people who don’t know I play are sometimes very impressed.  It’s a skill and an accomplishment of which I will always be proud.  And that’s all thanks to Nancie!!

Eve Alley


Adult Student Testimonials

I have been an adult student of Nancie’s for many years.  She was highly recommended to me by a previous music teacher, and it has been an experience that has absolutely transformed my music in so many important ways.  Her wonderful sense of humor aside, she is absolutely serious about giving me the most personal and focused experience I have had as a piano student.  I came to her saying I wanted to improve my playing, and she gave me a new life with music.  She has taught me literally how to practice.  I have mastered, and continue to work on pieces of a sophistication that I never dreamed I would be playing.  She has given me a technical and theoretical background that, again, I never thought I would accomplish.  In addition, I am now teaching kids to play and they join her studio workshops and recitals every year in very sophisticated performances that are the highpoint of the year for each of them.  I have never experienced such high-level, polished, and serious music from children as Nancie accomplishes year after year.  She is a brilliant teacher.

Dorothy Kruse, Adult Student, Private Studio


Nancie has so many strengths--musician, composer, artist and devoted student of human nature.  As a student of hers for 12 years and one who began piano in later adulthood, I value the way she can zero in on problems and break them down into workable chunks using a vast array of different approaches, all the while relentless in support of my self-confidence.  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


My classroom evaluation of Nancie Kester’s Music 150 (Beginning Piano 1) is very positive.  Nancie Kester has taught piano at DVC for many years as adjunct faculty, and continually strives for excellence.  She is a prominent member of the Berkeley music community, and a published composer and performer.  Her time-consuming project arranging many pieces for the ensemble aspect of our beginning and intermediate piano students, "Folk Songs for Piano Ensemble," was exemplary, and is used widely by all instructors.  The creation of these instructional pieces for our students is far beyond what an adjunct instructor should be expected to do.
Her continuing devotion to our piano program thus attests to a genuine love for imparting musical knowledge – indeed the love of music – to our students.  Her class is one of the most impressive I’ve observed.  Students consistently achieved success with activities, many of which were quite challenging.  Nancie interacts with students in the most positive manner.  Her use of humor is a definite asset for engaging students throughout a variety of activities.  She is of vital importance to the continuing success of our program, and one of the most professional and successful class piano instructors I’ve had the pleasure to work with.

Faculty Evaluation of Nancie Kester from Dr. Bruce Cook, Chairman of Piano Program, Diablo Valley College, 2005


Nancie, you have an impact on your students. You teach with your heart.  This is rare.  You have such a love for what you do and so much caring for the people you work with.  You also are lots of fun!  Thank you so very much for your wonderful teaching and kindness to us all!  You are a truly superior instructor as well a beautiful human being.

Diablo Valley Community College Student


Nancie is very competent in teaching the minute and finer points of performance for beginners. Her methodology is such that a student does not feel intimidated when confronted with what seems to be impossible tasks and performance.  Her pleasant personality and demeanor enhances students’ motivation to attain higher achievement rather than succumbing to discouragement or failure.

Contra Costa Community College Student


Reviews & Quotes


On “Laying Rails”

Fantastic work on this composition! You show strength in every category I could possibly comment on.  You are a uniquely musical person.  The musicality in your writing speaks of a seasoned and dedicated musician.  This composition is truly a great synthesis of music and historical forces.  Conceptually overlapping the Irish and Chinese immigrant experiences in song was done so tastefully and creatively.  I can say the same of your text painting in the percussion and piano parts.

Chris Thomas, film composer


On “Journey for Gold”

I love this! This should be in the repertoire of every women’s chorus in California and nationwide. It has all the qualities that we love about folk music: simple, earnest, yet poignant. The piece is well constructed and shows a high level of compositional skill and creativity. The vocal writing is excellent. Prosody is perfect, not a syllable misplaced. You create a nice balance of textures within the chorus… I love the ostinato bass line. It has a quasi “boogie-woogie” quality that is very American.

Alex Lu, composer


On “Northern Lights”

I really like your piece, and enjoyed listening to its textures and relating them to your inspiration. The writing for piano and exchange of lines sound incredibly colorful. There are a lot of very sensitive and crystalline-like wide intervals in the upper register of the piano that sound beautiful.

— Paul Kerekes, composer


On “Turkish Impressions”

Wow! This is a major work! I think you captured a great deal of the Turkish musical spirit quite beautifully! Brava! Traveling abroad and hearing new musical influences is a great tradition for composers throughout history. We can understand why! It is so inspiring. It feels so good to express your experiences through music directly/literally sometimes!
Some of the highlights are the atmospheric writing, the creative use of quartertones to represent native inflection, your choice of instruments, your oboe writing, and the fluid use of mixed meter. All fantastic.  … I'm so impressed with your work; I so hope to hear it performed!

Michael Glenn Williams, composer