INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Looking to get into music? Incline Village resident Elaine Courtney has been teaching piano lessons for the past 30 years, and can help you master the piano and create your own music, right here in town at Sounds of Tahoe.
“I’ve always loved piano,” said Courtney, founder and owner of Sounds of Tahoe. “I started taking lessons in the second grade.”
She began playing when her mother purchased a piano for $50 at an auction. Soon after, she began taking piano lessons, and has never looked back, basing her education and career around music.
Originally from Oklahoma City, Courtney has lived in Incline Village since 1986, the same year she graduated from Montana State University, Billings, with a degree in music education. Since earning her undergraduate degree, Courtney has taught at Sierra Nevada College and UNR, as well as completing her master of music from UNR and establishing herself as one of the premier piano teachers in Tahoe.
Courtney first began teaching piano in 1982, when she was a student at MSU. She would travel to homes of students for lessons while balancing her academic career with her passion for music.
She began working out of her own home in 1999, after working at Sierra Nevada College for 12 years. She has been developing her in-home studio since, adding new and different technologies every year, along with tailoring curriculum for students of all ages and abilities.
Courtney works with students through different mediums, including one-on-one instruction, method books, sheet music, improvisation, student- or teacher-created compositions and standard classical repertoire. Lessons meet once a week for an hour, allowing students to work with Courtney individually for 45 minutes, then use the remaining 15 to practice and play on the pianos alone or with other students.
The Sounds of Tahoe studio, a roomy and comfortable space, features many different tools for students to use, including four Yamaha Clavinovas, a grand piano, a composition station, recording equipment, keyboard and an extensive music library. Courtney noted that technology is becoming an increasingly important part of her curriculum.
“I started to incorporate technology into my teaching and curriculum in 1990. I had music education software for the students to study with before or after their lesson,” she explained. “I follow the rapidly expanding world of music education online and incorporate technology into my teaching as much as possible.”
In fact, Courtney focused her master’s degree on the link between technology and music, writing a paper titled “Using the Computer as an Instrument for Teaching Music.” She added that technology has become a natural part of life, and help students learn music and progress.
Sounds of Tahoe offers lessons to students of all ages and abilities. Courtney has students from ages 4 to 74, from preschoolers to teenagers to adults, and students come from as far as Reno to learn.
“The adult students are especially fun to work with. Everyone loves piano, no matter what stage of life,” she said. “I applaud my adult students for their commitment to expanding their musical horizons through regular lessons.”
Courtney teachers year-round — or as she calls it, throughout the piano year. Lessons meet once a week, and students can sign up for a semester at a time. A typical day for Courtney begins with lessons before school, at 7:45 a.m., and continuing throughout the day until 6:30 p.m. She meets with some students before school, adults or home-schooled children during the day, then older children after school during the evening.
“It’s fun to see the variety of abilities and music performed,” she explained of her typical day. Courtney also noted that she tries to keep a balance of fun and seriousness in the studio, encouraging students to simply enjoy playing the piano. “I find that students who study with me are here because they love music, especially the piano.”
Along with weekly lessons, students can attend monthly free classes, allowing them to use the equipment at the studio for an hour, play with other students and receive extra help if needed. Students also have the choice to participate in up to three recitals a year.
Those interested in the piano but not sure if it’s right for them are invited to meet with Courtney and take a complimentary introductory lesson.
Courtney still finds joy in teaching the piano to students of all ages and abilities.
“I’m very grateful for so many local families recognizing the value of music education for their children, and making the commitment to have music in their lives. The benefits of playing the piano go beyond getting to enjoy playing music,” she noted.
Sounds of Tahoe still has room for the upcoming fall semester. Those interested in learning how to play the piano, or to fine tune their skills, are invited to get in touch with Courtney for more information.