Mountain music in the key of life

Mountain Music Store (and dog)
MOUNTAIN SONG - Mountain Music School owner Sydney Gorham enjoys a nice Scotts Valley day outside with her mom, Denise, and the unofficial school mascot, Boots. (Christina Wise / Press Banner)

When Sydney Gorham was five years old, she started her first business, “Sydney’s Outdoor Chore Service.” The tiny entrepreneur waddled throughout her San Jose neighborhood with a bucket of cleaning supplies and a stack of handmade business cards in hand; Gorham went door-to-door and performed small tasks for her neighbors, who got a kick out of it more than anything. 

Gorham moved into a completely different field when she was a bit older. She ran “Singing Club” out of her family’s Boulder Creek home.

“I wanted something that would engage kids year-round,” she explained. “It started with a handful of kids. We learned sets of songs, and they’d put on recitals. By the time I left for college, we had over 30 kids attending and performing.”

Gorham graduated from San Lorenzo Valley High School in 2009 and headed to Cabrillo College with a desire to be a musical theater major.

After taking a Fundamentals of Music course, she found a new emphasis for her major and transferred to the University of the Pacific in Stockton.

From there, her musical prowess grew. Gorham graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in music. While working at a Lodi studio, her love and appreciation for all things music led to the passion she’s embedded into Mountain Music School in Scotts Valley.

Gorham’s angelic singing voice has been featured at Mountain Community Theater and events throughout the county and beyond—she was part of Little People’s Repertory Theater and then continued teaching the group’s Junior Players after graduating from the program.

Since opening the music studio—formerly B Sharp—five years ago, Gorham’s watched her business crescendo despite the pandemic.

“There were three teachers,” she said. “We had three small rooms in our original studio, and as our business grew, we needed to expand to accommodate our clients.”

Mountain Music now boasts 12 staff members in three separate spaces in King’s Village Shopping Center; in addition to voice work, instructors also teach piano (Kiddie Keys for the littles), guitar, ukulele, drums, sax, trumpet and clarinet. Gorham’s favorite part, though, is when her 160 students participate in recitals that are performed in the center’s courtyard.

“It’s a hoot,” Gorham said. “We have students from all ages—preschoolers to senior citizens—and levels who perform, and it’s their moment of gratification. It’s rewarding for everyone involved; they get to combat their fears and demonstrate what they’ve learned.”

Gorham counsels her students to visualize their entire recital day to calm frayed nerves. She tells them that being nervous is a normal part of the experience. Most of our students are beginners, and many of them are achieving a lifelong dream of learning to sing or play an instrument. That moment of discovery—when students hit the right note or strum the right chord—is the best.

“The younger kids haven’t yet received that message that they’re not good enough or talented enough,” Gorham said. “Talent is such a buzzword in music and education, Music is a skill, and you can learn it. Some people may have a natural inclination towards music, but anyone can be taught to sing or play. We make room for students’ goals and create a curriculum that helps them achieve their dreams.”

Gorham has watched her younger students become teenagers and go on to starring theater roles, and now she’s hoping that some of those students will return to teach.
“We are growing so fast that we need teachers,” she said. “I want this school to be a hub where professionals can come work, teach, and learn from each other.”

Gorham’s dream is to have a venue for performances someday so that she can feature her staff and students.

“We don’t teach one method of music,” she said. “Each instructor’s style and approach makes us unique in the music instruction world.”
As the school continues to expand, Gorham said that 2023 will be the year of “Band Camp.”

“We aren’t sure what that will look like—could be piano or singing or ukulele—we’re just trying to find our focus,” she said. “Since we’re solely doing individual lessons, it’s exciting to consider having a group experience for our students.”

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Christina Wise covers politics, education, art & culture, and housing issues. She has a degree in Communication from San Diego State University, and has lived in the San Lorenzo Valley since 1996. She's a community advocate and a mother of two.


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