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Courtney Gazda
Courtney Gazda

Courtney Gazda '12

Musician/Substitute Teacher

Performing in Italy my junior year with the Mount Union Choir would definitely be a major highlight in my college career. There are so many things I would have never thought I would do that I was able to experience.


B.A. Music Education


Parma, Ohio 

When I was performing on the ship, I was a pianist in the Adagio Duo, which is the Classical violin/piano duo on all of the Holland America ships. I performed every night in our own Adagio lounge and once a week performed in the big showroom. 

Why Mount Union

I chose Mount Union because it was the full package. Not too big, not too small, beautiful campus, and after my audition I knew that the music department would support my goals and give me the tools to grow as a musician and educator.

Campus Involvement

I think the main aspect that sticks out is the fact that we are encouraged to be involved on campus, whether it’s through sports, music or volunteering. The choir, for example, represented nearly every academic department offered on campus and made for an extraordinarily talented group of artists.

Favorite Professors

I had two that tied for favorite. Dr. Maira Liliestedt, my piano professor, was my favorite professor in the music department. She is someone who is definitely tough, but she’s only tough on you because she sees potential and wants you to feel the same fire that she sees in you. Also, on a personal level, Maira is the type of person who would give you the shoes off of her feet if you didn’t have any; she has an extremely generous heart. Second is a professor outside of the music department. I had Dr. Robert Ekey for Acoustics Science, Sound and Music, and I loved it. It was fun, and he really cares about his students. He would always say that even though he’s not a music professor that he loved coming to support us in our performances and appreciated what we did.  Plus, for our final project, he wore a Darth Vader mask and cape in the middle of Cope Music Hall for our class presentation. I don’t think anyone else can compete with that.

Cherished Memories

Performing in Italy my junior year with the Mount Union Choir would definitely be a major highlight in my college career. There are so many things I would have never thought I would do that I was able to experience. I didn’t think I’d ever give a full senior recital or have the opportunity to perform in Italy and now those are great memories that I was lucky to be a part of. Ultimately, the friends you meet in college will be your fondest memories. I can think of quite a few times sitting with my housemates in Townhouse G laughing for hours for absolutely no reason, and that’s the best kind of memory!

Performing on Ship

My first job was performing with Holland America Cruise Line, a pretty neat job to land right out of school. About a week before I graduated, I started applying for jobs and thought of auditioning for various cruise lines and land gigs and fell into the right place at the right time with Holland America. I performed piano with a violinist and also performed solo piano on the ship. We traveled through the Caribbean and South Pacific regions from October to February of last year. It is a ton of work and a seven-day gig without any days off, but I got to experience some awesome memories during the hours I wasn’t playing. I got to Jamaican bobsled and zipline when the ship stopped in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, which was awesome! I also had the opportunity to see some high class performers; Bass king Marcus Miller (original SNL band), Patti Labelle (jazz queen) and Recycled Percussion (America’s Got Talent) just to name a few. I now have friends from all over the world.

Campus Involvement

I was involved with the Mount Union Choir, Mu Phi Epsilon and Marching Band.

Career Preparation

The largest benefit of Mount Union was the fact that I was able to pursue two different sides to my career – musicianship and education. I was able to get a ton of performance experience through piano, choir and band, but was also able to grow as an educator and learn how to be an effective teacher.

Keeping in Touch with Friends

There are a few friends that I am still close with and many others that I still keep in touch with. Even if we go a few months without being able to talk, once we see each other or call it is as if no time has passed. I have stayed in touch with some of my professors as well.

Staying Connected

I follow the alumni page on Facebook and stay up to date with the emails I receive from the alumni office. I also try to make it down for some football games and visits.

Future Goals

Later in life, I would love to have my own business that would promote the education and performance of music, dance and theater. Musically, I’d like to be able to perform with more professional organizations and continue to build my musicianship.

A Great Investment

My education provided me with many different tools. Mount Union students are able to be involved with different types of activities so you aren’t just getting the education strictly for your major. My education gave me various skills that I can use anywhere I go, professionally, musically, or generally in life.


Now that I am home from the ship, I am substituting and performing wedding ceremonies here and there. The best part is probably the variety of different age brackets I get to teach every day.