Winter 2021: A Tribute to Nancy Bachus
It is inevitable that our profession will lose valued members of our community, but that does not make the loss any easier. Our colleagues touch our lives and influence our work and the work of those around us. Nancy Bachus was one of those impactful, cherished colleagues. A beloved author, clinician, performer, and friend, Nancy passed on September 8, 2020 after a valiant battle with pancreatic cancer.
Nancy's contributions to the Frances Clark Center and its publications were extensive. She served as an Associate Editor for Keyboard Companion, heading up the Repertoire Department, beginning in 2005. She continued as an Associate Editor for Clavier Companion, then joined the editorial review board for the Piano Magazine in January 2019, where she served until her death. The Piano Magazine remembers and honors our friend and colleague by sharing some tributes, written by a few who knew her well.
I had the great pleasure and privilege of working with Nancy Bachus for eleven years at Keyboard Companion and Clavier Companion. In her role as an Associate Editor, she helped to find and prepare an article for every issue. During that time, I was fortunate to know her not just as a colleague, but as a friend, teacher, and advocate.
Nancy was a highly dedicated, passionate teacher who worked tirelessly to bring the highest standards to her students, to her writing, and to the profession. She was a seemingly endless sources of ideas and inspiration; as I scroll through hundreds of e-mails that we exchanged there are so many memorable articles that emerge.
Nancy led the Repertoire and Performance column in the magazine, and she did amazing work in several areas. Notable among them were articles that organized and preserved great ideas from master teachers, drew attention to important works (sometimes undiscovered), and provided clear instructions on the "how" of playing with artistry and musicianship. Several of these were significant cover stories that had a lasting impact on our readers.
Nancy was a joy to speak with, and I can't recall a single conference encounter when she wasn't bubbling over with ideas for the next articles and projects. She had an enthusiasm that was infectious, and she was fully committed to helping to train and educate future generations of pianists in the great musical traditions of the piano.
I was very sad to learn of Nancy's passing; she will be greatly missed. I will always admire her work, her ideas, and her commitment to helping make the world a better place through music and the improvement of music teaching.
– Pete Jutras
Nancy was my treasured friend and colleague for decades. One can't talk about Nancy without mentioning her deep devotion and love for her family and friends.
In her work life, she shared her knowledge and passion for music with thousands of piano students, teachers, and pianists. Nancy's work was inspirational as a contributing board member of the American Liszt Society, associate editor for the Piano Magazine, and author of popular books through Alfred Publishers.
The titles for her Spirit series of books were appropriately named. She brought music alive! Nancy's work was infused with her interest in world affairs and history, and most of all, with her steadfast, humble, and joyful spirituality.
A graduate of Eastman School of Music, where she studied with Eugene List, Nancy later studied with Fernando Laires while preparing her Spirit series. Her teacher tree has cultural roots tracing her only four musical generations from Liszt and Chopin, five from Czerny, and six from Beethoven. Nancy eagerly gathered fruits from the various branches of her teacher tree, and delighted in passing these fruits on to nourish our next musical generations. She remarked of her sessions with Fernando: "The artistry Fernando managed to find in some of even the earliest level compositions astounded me." The popularity of Nancy's books illuminates her remarkable flair for exploring, digesting, and framing information and impressions. Through her work and her own teachable spirit, Nancy made an indelible imprint on the music world and secured a legacy we are so privileged to share.
– Helen Smith Tarchalski
I'll never forget the day we met, as it was a pedagogical awakening and crucial turning point in my life as a performer and independent teacher. Most importantly, it was the commencement of a lifelong treasured friendship with Nancy and her family.
Shared mountain top listening experiences with Nancy are among my favorite memories. Zimerman, Schein, Bronfman, Alan Walker and The Romantics Festival, MTNA conference—always accompanied by her beloved Krispy Kreme doughnut in the car to get us to our destination!
Nancy more than delighted in sharing pianistic wisdom and inspired the desire to perform and teach with artistic confidence and musical intellect. I remember so fondly the warm smile and plentiful laughter that would radiate from her when "I got it!" The sincerity and authenticity with which she imparted knowledge and beauty was rare and so very important to her being.
Her mastery and passion for teaching was palpable at every lesson. I have literally no idea how she imparted such sincere enthusiasm at 9:30 in the morning after having been up all night, literally, creating her Spirit series and Exploring series. I would be greeted at my lessons by her wonderful husband Don, coffee in hand, preparing the students for their lessons with a laugh and a joke. Nancy always was so easy with laughter and humor and integrated it as necessary to life and piano!
I finally figured out that the titles of Nancy's books are a beautiful representation of her true self. The Spirit series reflects her sincere and energetic spirit for music and spirited life force. Exploring the Classics is a testament to Nancy's engaging curiosity, exhaustive historical research, and exploration of human nature and its desire and need for beauty via music.
I hope that these words portray the potency and poignancy of such a treasured pedagogue, teacher, confidante, and friend. I am so glad Nancy's passions took her literally around the world and that she graciously shared her experiences and explorations with us.
With tremendous gratitude, admiration for your artistry, and eternal friendship Nancy…
– Kim Bakkum
Many of Nancy Bachus' friends followed her roller coaster bout with cancer. Her CaringBridge reports were at once hopeful and then followed by set-back. I was confident that she would win the battle, and was totally unprepared for the news of her death.
My friendship with Nancy goes back to her senior year in college when I was performing on that campus. The orchestra conductor arranged for me to hear her audition program for Eastman. We worked together several hours that weekend, and, as the saying goes, "the rest is history." Nancy earned her masters at Eastman, and we remained friends for life. Our friendship was renewed at conferences with a lunch or dinner together, and she replaced me as an Associate Editor at Keyboard Companion. Ours was a friendship that needed no renewal. It was stable, dependable, and always there.
Nancy is on my mind each teaching day, for virtually all of my students are learning from one or another of her publications. These repertoire collections are so very valuable, for they include pieces difficult to find elsewhere. The historical information she included in these volumes contributes greatly to the student's understanding of style and music history. She has made a significant contribution to the education of my students. She has made a significant contribution to my life, for her friendship is a cherished memory.
– Marvin Blickenstaff
I am lucky to have met you. I miss late night texting with you about teaching. I enjoyed our chats over lunch and dinner about our family lives and students' progress. You helped me so much when I had to prepare my pedagogy course at The University of Akron and encouraged me to write an article which I never finished, regrettably. I enjoyed hanging out with you at conferences and meeting other vibrant people who admired your work. You made me smile because you made other people happy! I was planning to hear more of your life stories and talk with you late at night while sharing a room at future conferences. My daughter enjoyed studying with you, and watching you and my daughter interact made me realize I should have gotten to know you better sooner. We first met twenty years ago, but only recently did I learn so much from you. I really appreciate our friendship, and I will cherish the memories. Thank you so much for inspiring me and helping me to grow as a teacher and a mother. I love you, and I miss you dearly.
– Mayumi Kikuchi
I was one of Nancy's students in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when she was working on the first books of her Spirit series and wearing cherry blossom lotion. My lesson assignments often included pieces that she was considering for the new books, and we worked through them quickly. I remember hearing about her late nights of editing, long phone calls to California, computer headaches, and copyright laws. More importantly, I remember hearing about music history, the lives of the composers, the development of the piano, and the never-ending quest for technical mastery, as if it were breaking news. She was genuinely interested in learning and, consequently, sharing. She would tell me about her own teachers and her own piano study in such a way that I was influenced to chase that same spark. Her love of learning made her an irreplaceable teacher. I'm so thankful for the years that I knew Nancy and that her example inspired me to be a piano teacher to the next generation. And yes, we still use the Spirit books!
– Amy Sauriol
Nancy Bachus was my friend, colleague, and neighbor, and she held my complete admiration from the moment I first met her in 2003. Her dedication to students, family, and community was both limitless and unwavering. Nancy had the unique ability to encourage and critique simultaneously, building the spirit while feeding the intellect. Her discipline and devotion to her work outside of the studio (the editing, articles, adjudication, travel, and presentations) was nothing short of astonishing. When I left Hudson, Ohio in 2019, Nancy remained steadfast in her friendship and kindness. Her emails, even during illness, were always jovial, supportive, and curious about my new life abroad. Though I now live far from the snowy road that joined us together by about a mile or two, I still reflect on our times together, forever in awe of all she gave to the world of music teaching.
– Jerry Wong
I first met Nancy Bachus when I was a naïve high school student in Ohio. My teacher at the time recommended I study with someone who had more experience working with more advanced students. I had had almost no technical training, and Nancy transformed my playing within half a year with intensive study of scales, arpeggios, Hanon, and Dohnányi. I went on to study with her at Hiram College for my first two years of college, and she then passed me along to her own teacher, Eugene List, in New York City. We remained close ever since that time. Her influence in my musical life remains as strong as ever. I recorded eight CDs for her Spirit series for Alfred Publications. Her insistence on the highest standards of faithfulness to the demands of the score and stylistic considerations were a learning experience for me. Over the years we felt comfortable enough to ask each other questions about repertoire or how to solve various technical problems for our students. Often, we exchanged emails late into the night. Her energy and strength were indomitable. She reminded me that we never get to the point where we know everything and that our studies are a lifelong journey of growth.
When she told me in 2019 that she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I made every effort to see her. In January, I stopped in Ohio on the way from San Francisco to Europe to attend the memorial of another great personal mentor, Abbey Simon. I will never forget the moment she took me into her library and told me to take anything I'd like. I felt a bit awkward and uncomfortable, as if I was stealing highly personal and beloved belongings. She sensed my discomfort and immediately put me at ease by handing me various books, saying "how about this, do you have it?" It was a personal and loving moment of sharing that I won't forget. I hope to continue her legacy and pass along as much of what I learned from her as possible. Isn't this the best way to honor those whom we have loved and lost?
– Daniel Glover