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Sheli Nan: A Breath of Fresh Air

Welcome to another Meet the Composer Blog!

Today’s blog will focus on composer-performer Sheli Nan. We’re excited to announce that we’ve commissioned a work from her for our upcoming “Guinevere’s Tale” project (which you can read about here!)

Taken from Sheli Nan’s biography on her website:

“Sheli Nan composes music that defies boundaries. Her Baroque and Classical training coupled with having lived all over the world produce a unique sound; a 21st century harmony. Giving credit to earlier musical iterations what she composes is fresh, invigorating, accessible and moving. Her music is performed locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. She composes from solo harpsichord and piano up to string quartets, chamber music and orchestra. Her choral music encompasses opera, (and librettos) Oratorios and Requiems.”

I was first introduced to Sheli Nan through my harpsichord teacher Arthur Haas. Stony Brook University requires students to perform a recital’s worth of contemporary music. Being a harpsichordist, our contemporary options tend to be rather limited. Looking through my teacher’s collection of new works, Sheli stood out to me immediately, and I happily performed a couple of her compositions in my first DMA recital.

Her Diptyque opens with an unmeasured prelude, Voyages d’art, complete with contemporary stylings and harmonizations. Every harpsichordist eventually incorporates this genre into their programs, and it was so exciting to see a fresh take on this classic style. There was a sense of wonder and introspection in her prelude unlike what I had encountered before, and I’ll continue incorporating this piece in my programs to share that moment with others.

Her Bach Boogie Blues is based off of J.S. Bach’s Invention in A Minor, melding the baroque piece with African-American rhythms of boogie coupled with blues harmonies. Keyboard students likely will recognize the piece immediately, and feel a shock of amusement when they hear Sheli’s rendition. Her piece forced me into new improvisation styles, incorporating jazz and blues in ways I had never done with my harpsichord studies. It’s a fun and exciting riff off a classic that easily keeps the audience engaged with the harpsichord’s contemporary capabilities.

I’m also linking below Sheli’s performance of her Bach Boogie Blues. It’s just as important to be a performer as well as a musician in our work, and I think Sheli perfectly captures that spirit on stage.

Personally, I’m very excited to be working with Sheli Nan on Amaranti’s newest project, and I can’t wait to perform her work. If you’re interested in her music, I highly recommend checking out her website here at


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