UMass Music and Dance Remembers Nadine Shank

Nadine Shank
Nadine Shank
Nadine Shank
Nadine Shank
Nadine Shank

Last Thursday, Oct. 8, professor of piano Nadine Shank passed away at age 65. Shank was on leave from her duties at UMass following her May diagnosis with sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a rare and incurable form of rapidly progressive dementia.

Department of music and dance chair Salvatore Macchia, who performed and worked alongside Shank for over 40 years, commented, “Nadine was beloved by her students, admired and respected by her colleagues, and dedicated to her role as teacher, mentor, and performer. She was generous in every way to her students, her colleagues, and the department. Nadine’s loss is a great blow to the department of music and dance - she will be sorely missed, and we will never fill the void she has left.”

A native of Ohio, Shank earned her bachelor’s degree from Oberlin Conservatory of Music and her master’s degree in piano performance from the University of Indiana. Her primary teachers included Menahem Pressler, Karen Shaw, Sanford Margolis and John Wustman. Shank came to UMass in 1979, when she was hired by Charles Bestor to lead the department of music and dance’s piano accompanying program. During her more than forty years at UMass, Shank establishing a thriving and dynamic collaborative piano studio and helped to institute the master’s in collaborative piano degree program, which has drawn top piano students to UMass. Her mentorship of the skills and dedication required to develop well-rounded pianists kept the program on the cutting edge of her field throughout her tenure.  

With her talents as both a performer and educator, Shank served as a model of the versatility that she cultivated in her students. Her colleague and friend, retired professor of piano Estela Olevsky, called Shank “a complete pianist, and a great role model for the students in her program, demonstrating how they can succeed by expanding their skills and becoming well-rounded pianists, collaborators, and teachers.”  Shank enjoyed a highly successful and wide-ranging career outside of UMass, performing at such prestigious venues as the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., Jordan Hall in Boston; and Weill Recital Hall, Merkin Hall, and the 92nd Street Y in New York City. In particular, she counted her recital tours with renowned violin professor emeritus (and Wieniawski Violin Competition winner) Charles Tregeramong her proudest moments as a performer.

Shank also performed and recorded with a wide range of artists and ensembles, including a longstanding collaboration with retired professor of saxophone Lynn Klock, as well as professor Jonathan Hulting-Cohen, Klock’s successor.  She served for thirty-five years as principal pianist with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, and her joyful “Nadine and Friends” recitals at UMass have been a mainstay of recent spring semesters. Shank released 18 recordings on a variety of labels, including CRI, Gaspari, MRS, New World, Spectrum, and YAL, as well as numerous “Play-Along” CDs of saxophone and clarinet literature for Open Loop.

With all of her many professional accolades, she commented recently that she took the most pride in mentoring the many piano students she has taught over the years, music majors and minors who have gone on to careers in music and a wide range of other professions. Her collaborative piano program, and Shank personally, have played a major role in the success of hundreds of music students and the department as a whole. In reflecting on his experience as a member of her studio, former student Anthony Ferreira commented, “I credit Nadine for reigniting my love for piano.”

Among her many contributions to the success of the music program, Shank established a scholarship for collaborative piano students in honor of her mother, Geraldine Shank, made annual contributions to help maintain the department’s many pianos, and volunteered her time to serve as collaborative pianist for dozens of degree recitals and juries each year.

Nadine’s family is planning a public celebration of her life with both musical and spoken tributes after COVID restrictions are lifted. Donations may be made to the Nadine E. Shank Piano Endowment Fund at the UMass Amherst department of music and dance website, www.umass.edu/music/give-music.

Full obituary and remembrance page: https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/gazettenet/obituary.aspx?n=nadine-e-shank&pid=196932186&fhid=15510