New Jersey singer/songwriter Nancy Chamberlain converted from classical pianist to folk musician. After performing classical works by Mozart, Bach, and the Romantic composers for years, she came into her own as a folk musician in 2001.
Acceptance in the folk world didn't come easy for her because she played piano instead of guitar. She sang in a style reminiscent of Carole King, and accompanied herself on a Yamaha synthesizer for live shows in New Jersey in an attempt to move into pop music.
Chamberlain's first notice as a folk musician came when she played at the New Jersey Folk Festival at Douglas College on the campus of Rutgers University, where she won the 2000 New Folk Showcase for her songs "Dear Heart" and "Have You Thought About It Lately."
Chamberlain began songwriting in 1999. Then, she performed locally at coffeehouses and restaurants in New Jersey. Her songwriting is primarily influenced by Carole King, Shawn Colvin, Bonnie Raitt, Billy Joel, Dan Fogelberg, and Karen Carpenter, whom she heard as a youth in Bloomfield, NJ.
She performed classical music, primarily accompanying the Morris Conservatory Chorus on harpsichord and piano, from 1990 to the present in New Jersey, where she also freelanced as a church organist and performed at weddings, parties, and other social functions on piano. She has also performed on non-commercial live recordings of Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto and Mozart's Piano Concerto in C.
Chamberlain started piano at an early age, after her parents brought a piano into the house so her oldest brother could practice his music theory as a student at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. Two years later, she started taking piano lessons privately. She trained by playing Bach and Mozart before moving to the Romantic composers such as Schubert, Schumann, and Chopin.
Chamberlain went on to take a B.M. in music at Westchester University, a liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, in 1985, and an M.M. in piano performance in 1987 at the Manhattan School of Music, where she studied with Robert Goldsand.
Later, she traveled to Europe on a Rotary scholarship in 1998 to study one year in France at a branch of the Paris Conservatory in Nice on the French Riviera.
Although Chamberlain had loved classical music for years, she didn't feel in control. Folk music provided her with a new outlet for self-expression. She released an eight-song debut cassette, Two Track Mind, independently on her own label, Boncha Music, in 1999. She released a single, "Make a Woman Feel Beautiful," in 2001. That same year, she began working on her first full-length CD, Late Bloomer (Boncha Music), which was recorded at Mixolydian studios in Lafayette, NJ, and came out in 2002.