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Jean Nandi Harpsichord Books & Memoir

Jean Nandi (formerly Jean Brandt-Erichsen) is a harpsichordist who studied with Gustav Leonhardt and who has twenty years of experience teaching students of all ages and musical backgrounds. In these innovative books, she develops a unique approach to teaching musical beginners, resulting in the total incorporation of music theory into all aspects of musical study. In its mission to promote the arts, the Elverhøj Museum is especially pleased to make available these significant out-of-print books as free PDF downloads. More info about Jean is below.

Starting on the Harpsichord

STARTING ON THE HARPSICHORD — A FIRST BOOK FOR THE BEGINNER by Jean Nandi, with music by Leonie Jenkins (7 MB PDF, 212 pages)

The first method produced since the 18th century for students whose first instrument is the harpsichord! Simple and complete for self-teaching. A wealth of specially written musical examples for use in class or with a private teacher. Encompasses the first two years of study — no previous musical experience necessary!

Playing with the Elements of Music

PLAYING WITH THE ELEMENTS OF MUSIC — A GUIDE TO MUSIC THEORY by Jean Nandi, with some original preludes by Leonie Jenkins (6 MB PDF, 153 pages)

A reference work and study guide for musical beginners. This book is unique in its approach to teaching musical theory and practice. Designed as a supplement to Starting on the Harpsichord, it is valuable for any keyboard player, beginning or intermediate. Exercises designed for work at the keyboard, and to train the ear and musical imagination!

Skill and Style on the Harpsichord


A compendium of information needed for the development of stylistic performance on the harpsichord, presented in simple terms for the musical beginner. For the first time, necessary information about musical forms, ornamentation, early notation, thoroughbass, and early tunings are brought together in a single volume comprehensible to the musical novice. Discussion of performance nuances — the use of rhythmic alterations, articulations, and harpsichord registrations — which go well beyond the material presented in Starting on the Harpsichord.

Unconventional Wisdom

UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM — A MEMOIR by Jean Nandi (1.2 MB PDF, 229 pages)

"This book is a testimony of triumph...a true model of human achievement..." — Nancy Becker Kennedy, playwright and award-winning writer and composer

"[Jean Nandi's] story is one of courage and inspiration, two attributes we all need, no matter what our situation." — Shirley Dean, former Mayor of Berkeley, California

An enlightening autobiography that dispels any number of myths concerning the disabled, while encouraging others to seek fulfillment in unexpected places. "Coming out" as a person with a disability, Jean Nandi began honing her skills in the area of disability advocacy during the nineties, leading both a county and then a city commission. She developed successful grass-roots organizations devoted to improving accessibility and health care for people with disabilities.


The daughter of the renowned Armenian-American composer Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000) and the American artist Martha Mott Davis (1906-1983), Jean was born Jean Christina Hovaness in Cambridge, MA, in 1935. She was named after her godfather, the Finnish composer Jean Christian Sibelius, whom her parents had befriended. Her parents divorced in 1938 and she came to know her father again only in the 1950s. She became Jean Brandt-Erichsen when her mother later married Viggo Brandt-Erichsen, and she is a graduate of Santa Ynez Valley Union High School.

She graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a PhD in Zoology and did teaching and research in endocrinology until 1968. In Berkeley she met and married Satyabrata Nandi, a brilliant East Indian biologist and cancer researcher who was to become a full Professor at the University.

Jean's early and ongoing interest in music persisted, aided and abetted by her composer father. Ill health forced her to cut back on physical activities, and eventually to retire to her home where she could teach and practice the harpsichord, which she found possible to do despite a life-long, slowly progressing form of muscular dystrophy.

Although distanced from her father by geography and circumstance, she and Alan Hovhaness remained fast friends throughout the remainder of his life. He had written music for his only daughter since her childhood. They performed together at a concert in Berkeley in 1978 (audio available online). For a 1.5-minute live recording of Jean Nandi playing the first movement (Allegro) from Hovhaness' Sonata for Harpsichord "Daddy Long Legs," download this MP3 file.

By the 1980s, then a wheelchair user, Jean became a powerful advocate for disability rights in her community, using her teaching skills to help other disabled people. Because of her extensive humanitarian work for the handicapped, she was honored by the city of Berkeley's dedication of an entire month in her name.

In recent years Jean's muscle disease has progressed to the point where she is bedridden and is kept alive with a feeding tube, but she continues to lead a full life studying music on her computer.


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