Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Nancy Maier, Jerry Herman, “Open a New Window,” The Musical Theater Project

Nancy Maier left New York and a budding career to move to Cleveland.  Yes, she traded the Big Apple for Cle!

Many know Nancy Maier from her many performances with Bill Rudman and The Musical Theater Project’s concerts.  Some know her from her work with the wunderkinds of the nationally revered Baldwin Wallace’s Musical Theater program.  But how many know the “real” Nancy Maier?

A native Clevelander, born and brought up in the Brooklyn area of the city, Nancy started to play the piano at age 8.  She played by ear, could pick out tunes and modify them with no training.  Eventually she took lessons where her teacher, who was proficient in stride piano, exposed her to ragtime, chord charts, and boogie-woogie in addition to classical technique.  She was exposed to playing before people and her future track for her life was set!

Her life at Brooklyn High School, on Cle’s west side, mainly centered around music.  Her choice of a college was easy…Indiana U’s well known music school.  Now known as the Jacobs School of Music, it is one of the top institutions for composing, piano and performance.  She later transferred to Baldwin Wallace where she finished her undergraduate degree, and started to sing and play piano at local piano bars and pick up musical directing positions at area theatres.

When her husband, Dan, a stellar musician, wanted to expand his own musical career, the duo moved to New York.  Ironically, Brooklyn [New York].  While her husband toured with various bands, Nancy waitressed, accompanied various singers, became an audition accompanist, did some music directing and summer stock, performed at An Evening dinner theatre as associate conductor, and studied voice.  

In 1989, Nancy and Dan moved back to Cleveland.  They were “tired of all the gigs, their family was here, it was time to come home.”  As she said in a recent interview, “Coming back was wonderful.  I got my masters at CIM [Cleveland Institute of Music], met Vicky [Bussert, the “Mother Superior” of the BW music theater program], worked at Cain Park and BW, and adopted a child.”

Her career as a free-lance music director was on a roll.  Nancy became affiliated with Great Lakes Theater, Cleveland Play House, Beck Center and Karamu.

In 1996 she was appointed Music Director and vocal coach at BW Conservatory of Music, where she stayed until 2012.  In reality, she is still there.  She returns and “steps in as needed.” 


Her affiliation with Bill Rudman and The Musical Theater Project, started serendipitously.   “Bill used to see musical things I directed, realized I was passionate about my music, and sought me out for special projects.  We did some broadcasts from Cain Park and started to do concerts which honored specific composers and musical theatre topics.  I was appointed Associate Artistic Director and started to do some feature singing.”

Upcoming for Nancy and TMTP will be “Open a New Window:  The Songs of Jerry Herman.”  Maier, in her effervescent way stated: “I love Jerry Herman.  He knows he isn’t contemporary writer, he writes traditional “show” tunes, he has kept traditional music alive, is much deeper a composer than most people think, his ballads are quite deep, his lyric writing complex, he is an AIDS survivor from the 1990s, he identified with the message of his musical, “La Cage aux Folles.” She continued: “He was an only child, born in New York. At a young age he played music by ear, much like me.  I identify with him.” 

“You can hear a sense of optimism and hope in his songs.”  Herman wrote lots of standards including “I Am What I Am,” “Before the Parade Passes By,” “Hello Dolly,” “It Only Takes a Moment,” “Open a New Window,” “Mame,” and “I Won’t Send Roses.”

What should we look forward to in “Open a New Window:  The Songs of Jerry Herman?”  Nancy happily said, “Sing-a-longs, a couple of special guest artists, a surprise, hearing songs of Jerry Herman that you haven’t heard before, and gaining a new respect for a great composer.”

You can hear Nancy, Bill Rudman and the music of Jerry Herman on Sunday, March 26 at 3 pm at The Temple-Tifereth Israel, 2600 Shaker Boulevard, Beachwood.  To get tickets call 216-245-8687 or visit