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Courtney Gazda
Courtney Gazda

Courtney (Gazda) Nurre '12

Director of Learning Programs at The Cleveland Orchestra

Everyday I work towards my goal of bridging gaps and breaking barriers for students and families in the Cleveland community through music.


B.A. Music Education, University of Mount Union

M.A.A., University of Akron


Hometown: Parma, Ohio 

Currently: Broadview Heights, Ohio

My Director of Learning role leads strategic planning initiatives and implementation of education programs/content for students of all ages in schools, in the community, and/or online.  I work closely with Cleveland schools to implement meaningful music programs and provide teachers with resources and ODE-certified professional development training which are eligible for CEUs toward licensure renew. In addition, I also continue to carry out my own music-making with my business called Cleveland Cocktail Piano. I perform for wedding ceremonies, receptions, holiday parties, and other special events. I get to perform many styles of music, but especially love making 'cocktail' covers for popular songs.

Why Mount Union?

Having been in music most of my life, I knew that I wanted to continue in music education at the collegiate level. When I began the audition processes and visiting various other universities, I kept comparing the wonderful experience I had at Mount Union and knew that I would not have a better experience anywhere else. I still remember arriving to Cope Music Hall (where future me would end up spending most of my time in my 4 years there) and meeting with Professors Dr. Patricia Boehm and Dr. Maira Liliested (both of whom would become my professors and mentors). It was clear that I would have the ability to grow and also to be pushed both musically and academically, and be supported in the way that I needed to be successful.


Making Music

I was able to be a part of the Mount Union Concert Choir each year which was usually my favorite part of every day! I was able to participate in the local choir tours, and also the international choir tour to Italy in 2011. Making music every day at a high level and being a part of a team that all had to work hard together are still things I get to do every day in my career path. Being on risers or a stage with a large number of people is the best way you can learn to collaborate with others and learn to work with many different types of personalities. That's something most people will do in some capacity in their lives and something I get to do, and love, every day.


I administer programs for ages PreK - 12 and teachers.  Early Childhood students and classrooms engage with orchestra musicians and education staff as a first exposure to music.  We focus on child development and gear resources towards Pre-K readiness skills, including a mindfulness program to promote calm and focus through classical music. Intermediate & high school programs include a mentorship model in which students grades 3-8 participate in an after-school program with mentorship/support from high school students -- the high school students receive intensive coaching and training from orchestra musicians and education staff.  Teachers receive trauma-informed and ODE-approved workshops eligible for CEUs to maintain licensure status.  I also write funding proposals, present at national conferences, and work to expand our educational footprint on a national scale through our resources.  


I get to do all of the things I've dreamed of combining into a career, every single day! I get to work with children, teach professional development training for educators, collaborate with a diverse group of community leaders and partners, be on a team with staff and TCO musicians, and develop and implement content that helps to support and encourage music-making in the Cleveland community. I definitely took some unconventional paths to get here and didn't know that a career like this even existed. I performed as a pianist on Holland America Cruise Line upon graduating from Mount Union, I taught music to various grades in public schools, and I worked in all kinds of different internships to find my path. Now I think to myself, it is an amazing thing to be able to combine all of your passions into one place.

Ultimate Goal

Every day I work towards my goal of bridging gaps and breaking barriers for students and families in the Cleveland community through music. Deeply rooted systemic racism has taken so much from too many communities in the world and while I know I can't solve all of the injustices, what I can do is develop and implement meaningful programming that has the potential to bring joy to children and families through the power of music.

Advice to Students

Many students feel they must use their degree in a literal sense.  I highly recommend exploring different types of jobs, even if they deviate from your major.  My first job out of Mount Union was performing full-time on a cruise line as a cocktail pianist.  Then I taught music in a standard classroom setting for a few years and learned of an Arts Administration program at the University of Akron.  Getting business experience and realizing that nonprofit is such meaningful and impactful work eventually led me to my role with The Cleveland Orchestra.  I always enjoyed teaching music, but now I get to combine my passion for music education with building community partnerships, connecting dots for students and families, and increasing equitable exposure and access to music that I wouldn't otherwise have.  I also recommend taking some kind of budget/finance course if possible!  I manage complex budgets and funding documents and didn't have much support in this area until grad school. It is a great skill to have!