Hello, my name is
Nancy M. Williams
I am the founding publisher of Grand Piano Passion™. I am an amateur concert pianist who debuted at Carnegie Hall, even though I have lived with a genetic, degenerative hearing loss all of my life. I founded Grand Piano Passion™ to share insights from my journey with adults who love to play the piano, musicians with hearing loss, and anyone claiming their passion.
Grand Piano Passion™ will help you to Play. Hear. Aspire.
What I believe…
I believe that everyone has a passion — a pastime or occupation for which we feel an intense desire.
I believe that we have the right to pursue our passions, even when we possess a disability or constraint like hearing loss that according to conventional wisdom seems to limit that pursuit.
I believe that all of us in the hearing loss community must do everything in our power to address the social stigma against hearing loss.
I believe that when we come to terms with our constraints and disabilities, especially those that society stigmatizes, that we gain power and a means for forging our identity.
I believe that claiming our passions leads to self-integration and creates happiness.
I debuted at Carnegie Hall in 2012 with two Chopin pieces, the dreamy “Raindrop” Prelude and beguiling Nocturne in E‑flat Major. I was the only performer wearing hearing aids. Only seven years before, after a hiatus of over two decades, I had reclaimed the piano.
During my 15 minutes on stage, I was intent on nothing else save the physical bulk of the piano, the music’s resonant sounds, and the memories woven within. I played the final notes with reluctance. Along with the birth of my children, my performance was one of the best days of my life.
I first fell in love with the piano when my teacher assigned me Beethoven’s Fur Elise. The music filled me so completely that whenever I passed the piano in our living room, I craved its sounds.
A few months before I turned 16, I performed from memory Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp minor, with its thunderous chords and chaotic whirlwind of triplets, at my teacher’s recital. Last on the program, I felt shyly proud when I received a standing ovation, although I had experienced an equal joy in the months before, during the hours of practice time. I savored the feeling of my strong hands plunging into the keys.
Hearing Loss Diagnosed
When I was diagnosed with hearing loss at age six, my parents refused the recommended hearing aid. Their message was that I needed to hide my hearing loss. Not until I was socially ostracized by a group of girls in middle school because I could not hear secrets, did my parents break down and have me fitted with a hearing aid.
At first, Mom supported my love for the piano, telling me that with my beautiful touch, no one would know that I had a hearing loss.
Losing the Piano
The summer after I turned 16, I was told that with my hearing loss, I would never be a concert pianist. I was pressured to quit the piano.
For the next twenty-five years, whenever I saw a piano out of my peripheral vision, I longed to play. But feelings locked away inside of me—that I would never progress far on the piano with my hearing loss, that I was too old to study the piano—barred me from finding my way back.
During that time, I attended Stanford University, earned my masters at Harvard Business School, married, gave birth to my two beloved children, and worked as a marketing director.
Reclaiming the Piano
When my son turned six, I agreed with my husband we should buy an upright, a decision that catapulted me back to the piano. In my early 40s, I enrolled in adult piano lessons, admitting to my teacher that I wear hearing aids — yet he was undeterred.
At a student recital, I came out in public, explaining to the audience I needed to toggle my hearing aids to the music setting before taking my place on the bench.
I enrolled in a master class on performance, which culminated in my recital performance of the two Chopin pieces at Carnegie Hall.
Founding Grand Piano Passion™
Pursuing my passion for the piano was a journey not only of making music but of self- discovery. With the help of therapy, Al-Anon, and the renewed bliss I felt practicing the piano, I came to terms with my childhood experiences and the stigma against hearing loss that had mildewed within.
I decided to dedicate my professional life to hearing loss. I founded Auditory Insight, a boutique strategy consultancy focused on hearing healthcare.
I launched Grand Piano Passion as my act of service to those who love music yet fear that their age or hearing abilities constrain them from playing an instrument.
Learn how we can create together
Adults Who Wants to
Play the Piano
Reflections on a Grand Passion
I am at East Coast Piano, a boxy, windowless warehouse store on New Jersey’s Route 46, because my husband, David, has insisted.
For my performance at Carnegie Hall, I wanted to infuse my music with the same emotion I experienced at home.
On New Year’s Eve in 1986, a crowd wearing pointed party hats pressed against the velvet ropes outside a Manhattan club.
An adult piano student considers her music ugly, a holdover from her childhood. Then when looking to buy an antique Steinway, she instead leaves with hope.