Nadine E. Shank
1954 - 2020
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Nadine E. Shank was born on October 10, 1954 in Akron, OH and died on October 8, 2020 in Amherst, MA. In May 2020, she was diagnosed with sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a rare and incurable form of rapidly progressive dementia.

She traced her roots to the Avery family, who moved from Groton, CT to the Aurora, OH area in 1814. Music was in Nadine's blood. Her parents (her mother, a vocalist; her father, a saxophonist) met in 1939 as members of a Big Band that played for dances during the WWII era in the greater Akron, Ohio area. They fully supported Nadine's early interest in the piano and, when she was just 10, bought her a Steinway grand piano that remained her lifelong favorite piano. Nadine enjoyed an especially close relationship with her mother, Geraldine. They exchanged daily letters during Nadine's college years and shared many travels and daily visits until Geraldine died this January at the age of 101.

Nadine attended elementary through high school in Akron at Our Lady of the Elms where she accompanied the choirs. She received a Van Cliburn Scholarship to the Interlochen National Music Camp. There, she won the concerto competition and played Prokofiev's Piano Concerto #1 with the Interlochen World Youth Symphony Orchestra. She attended Oberlin College, where one of her professors commented that Nadine was among the top three students he'd ever taught. She won the Rudolph Serkin Piano Scholarship as the outstanding piano major in her junior class. Upon graduation in 1976, Nadine enrolled at Indiana University's School of Music, where she refined her collaborative playing under Menachem Pressler and other fine pianists. She won IU's Concerto Competition in 1979.

After earning her Masters in Piano Performance from IU, Nadine at age 25 was chosen from over 100 applicants to join the piano faculty at UMass Amherst. Her initial responsibilities included teaching group piano to non-music majors in the Old Chapel. Later, she taught French art song and German lieder to pianists and singers alike, often singing the vocal line while playing the piano, as well as teaching sight-reading and collaborative piano. In 1989, she developed a Masters in Collaborative Piano degree that continues to place its graduates throughout the world. She served for many years at UMass as Area Coordinator of the Piano and Collaborative Piano Areas. She was principal orchestral pianist with the Springfield Symphony since 1984.

Nadine was a predictable presence either on the stage or in the audience at countless Five College music, dance and theater productions. She attended performances of the UMass orchestras, Wind Ensemble and choruses, and student and faculty recitals even of non-pianists; unless Nadine had a rehearsal or concert herself, she'd be there. One faculty member remarked, "Nadine played in and attended more concerts in a year than most of us do in a lifetime."

Although Nadine chose a career as a collaborative pianist, she soloed with the Springfield Symphony, UMass Wind Ensemble, UMass Orchestra and Chorus and her beloved US Army Band at West Point. Nadine for many years sought spirituality in Buddhism but, with no moral contradiction, strongly supported the US military bands. Her father, Wayne Shank, who passed away in 1980, had fought his way in WW ll from Sicily and the Solerno and Anzio beachheads north through Italy as a US infantryman. Wayne's playing the saxophone inspired Nadine to specialize in piano-saxophone collaboration. She was thought to have more of this literature under her fingertips than any other pianist in the world.

Nadine relished her role as a collaborative pianist, emphasizing the melodic line whether played by the soloist or herself. She had a remarkable ability to sight read. From a colleague: "Her pianistic excellence, her remarkable dexterity and phenomenal ability to learn huge difficult pieces of music established her as an outstanding instrumental and vocal partner." What might take other pianists weeks or months to master, Nadine would have concert-ready in just days. As a result, her repertoire was vast, her studio's walls lined with sheet music from the baroque to the most contemporary pieces demanding extended piano techniques and complex rhythms. No matter how difficult the music or short the notice, Nadine performed flawlessly in over a thousand performances at UMass and national and international venues. Nadine recorded 18 CDs, including several "Play-Along" CDs for saxophone and clarinet that have been used by educators and students for several decades.

Nadine was an incorrigible shopper. Her condo was filled with chic artwork by local and international artists as well as prized kitsch from her springtime holidays spent in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. "Just doing my part to help the local economy." Summers, she predictably stopped at the Route 47 open-air flea market going to or coming from her Sunday performances as church pianist/organist and often both ways! In secondhand stores, she sought out vintage sequined gowns and blouses to perform in, usually changing at intermission to model a recent purchase.

Nadine loved dogs, road cycling, hiking, line dancing, drum and bugle corps competitions, jazz, good food and her many dear friends. She served as church pianist/organist almost every Sunday in the greater Northampton area since 1980. When people came up to greet Nadine in local stores, it was rarely to congratulate her on a recent performance. Rather, it was to thank her for her imaginative programming of music (Country & Western, hip-hop, Broadway, classical) to accompany the intense aerobics and spinning classes she led for decades in local health clubs. Nadine had an operatic voice. When she attended UMass basketball and football games, people many rows below turned to see who was singing the National Anthem with such gusto.

On stage, her virtuosity dazzled audiences and her fellow performers; in her daily life, it was her generosity that shone continuously, moving former and current faculty, students and friends through her selfless giving of herself, her time and money. Many have remarked that Nadine's example set a high bar for how they live their professional and personal lives. Although she had no biological children, she nurtured hundreds of her "children" who are living throughout the world, inspired to carry on her legacy of kindness, warmth and inspired music- making.

Nadine's admirers are invited to join former and current faculty and students in donating to the Nadine E. Shank Piano Endowment Fund at the UMass Amherst Dept. of Music and Dance. She is survived by her husband, David Nielsen. Nadine will be buried in the Shank family gravesite in the Aurora (OH) Cemetery. Once the COVID restrictions are lifted, UMass will host a public celebration of her life with both musical and spoken tributes.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on Oct. 11, 2020.
No memorial events are currently scheduled. To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
Memories & Condolences
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18 entries
October 22, 2020
Nadine is one of the most inspiring, powerful and talented people I have ever met. When I was searching for a new piano teacher several years ago, I took a "trial lesson" (or so I thought) with Nadine. After the lesson, she said, "What time are you available next week?" and I have not looked back since.
I am so grateful for the time I spent under Nadine's tutelage. She encouraged me to play the pieces that I loved, even if she thought they were too hard, and was insightful and thoughtful about every note I played. Every lesson I took with her was challenging but rewarding; I always left her studio with more to work on and more to think about. She helped me grow immensely as a musician.
Nadine also often sought piano playing opportunities for me. She was the one who recommended that I play organ for churches throughout the Pioneer Valley—in particular, the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Luke in East Longmeadow—which were experiences I will never forget.
And lastly, Nadine was my friend. She gave me many thoughtful and quirky gifts, including a purse from one of her trips to Mexico, a wide-brimmed hat from a flea market, and a violin shaped vase. Eventually, she even gave me a key to her office, so that in the summers after I finished my work day in my laboratory at UMass, I could go into her office and practice. I was even inspired to attend one of her spin classes (though that was short lived).
Nadine, you were an incredible force of nature, and you shaped my musical and personal life in so many ways. I only wish that I had a chance to say goodbye and to have another piano lesson with you. I will miss you dearly. Thank you for everything you have given me.
Much love,
Amanda Dee
October 20, 2020
Dear David, Thank you for taking care of Nadine especially at the end of her all to short life. She was a wonderful colleague to me. What an amazing pianist and person. I wish you the best at this sad time. Sincerely, Kitty Fink
Katherine Eberle Fink
October 18, 2020
Nadine nurtured and encouraged me when I was a voice student at UMass. I must have seen her perform a dozen times, each time so uplifting. Thank you for sharing the joy of music and life in so many ways.
I have attempted to share a song in this message window. I hope it can be heard.
Andrew Garland
October 17, 2020
I graduated from Our Lady of the Elms with Nadine. She was a talented and gentle classmate. My sincere sympathy to her family and friends.
May the angels sing her home.

Fondly, Julie Costigan Roberts
Julie Roberts
October 16, 2020
Nadine was a talented, beautiful and energetic woman, I’m so sad to read of her passing. I took many aerobics classes with her and always enjoyed them.
What a tremendous loss. My sympathy to her husband, family, friends and and students!
Rest In Peace dear Nadine.
Wanda Muller
October 14, 2020
Nadine was a dear friend and musical colleague. We met in 1981. We spent many fun times together and with other friends. I loved Nadine’s beautiful spirit and dedication to her students and all of her musical work. My heart goes out to her family and all of her friends as we all grieve her loss. I am so glad to have had Nadine in my life and I will always remember her.
Carol Hutter
October 13, 2020
Nadine was an inspiration on so many levels. She inspired me to be the best flutist I could be, and remember vividly my senior recital with her. She was vivacious and energetic and encouraged us to live to the fullest. Her musical soul will live on in all of us who had the distinct pleasure of working with her.
Stefanie Vantine (Palin)
October 13, 2020
I’m honored to have studied with Nadine. She was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. She always had time for me, even though her schedule was so full. Thank you for being there for me in my darkest times.
Deepest condolences to David and family for their loss.
Rest In Peace, Nadine.

Keng Siong Sim
Keng Siong Sim
October 12, 2020
Our thoughts and condolences are with you and your family. I went to school with Nadine at Oberlin and my husband and I knew her from IU. I was lucky enough to have had Nadine as my accompanist for my masters recital at IU. She was the most sought afted accompanist, by far. We saw her again in Nashville several years later as she was passing through. I believe she was making a pilgrimage here to go line dancing at the Wildhorse Saloon! She was so much fun and such a dear person. We will surely miss her.
Cathy and Alan Umstead
Cathy Umstead
October 12, 2020
I will miss you, my dear friend. May you rest well....
Mikhaela (Mikki) Houston
October 12, 2020
Nadine was one of the founding members of the organization
Western Mass. Death with Dignity in the summer and fall of 2017,
and brought her enthusiasm, energy, and passion for the issue of
medical, compassionate aid in dying for people with a terminal
She remained on the Board though she couldn't attend meetings
due to her many teaching and performance commitments. She did
find time to join a vanload of Death with Dignity supporters going to
and from the Boston Statehouse in June 2019 to call for the Legislature
to pass The End of Life Options Act. Her bright spirit and lively
conversation made the journey and the effort more memorable.
John Berkowitz
October 12, 2020
Dear David and family and friends of Nadine, so very sorry for your loss. Nadine was one special woman - she brought so much joy and love to this world through her music and relationships. We feel deeply grateful to have been able to know her and be touched by her life. Thinking of you and sending love and light. Love, Michelle & Terry O'Neill
Michelle & Terry O'Neill
October 11, 2020
Nadine, you are a true and special musician. I still remember your beautiful smile. Rest in peace.
Grace Eunsil Yun
October 11, 2020
Inspiring, encouraging, and caring, you gave so much to nourish students like me. I will always remember my joyful time with you at UMass, dear Nadine. Rest In Peace...
Yu Liu
October 11, 2020
Rest in peace, dearest Nadine. You were a great colleague and
friend. You will always live in my heart
Estela Olevsky
October 11, 2020
We'll never forget your kindness. Rest in peace.
HS and HR
October 11, 2020
An enthusiastic, friendly, and energetic Jazzerciser...I loved dancing beside her. I will always remember fun times at classes with Nadine and her Mom!
Denise D
October 11, 2020
Nadine was not only an incredible musician and teacher, she was also a tremendous role model. Generous of time and spirit, she was always there for her many students. The years and miles always lessened with an email or a phone call from her. Nadine was the epitome of a strong and independent woman. I will be forever grateful for her guidance and friendship.
Ann Marie Novak
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