Courtney Conley (lovingly known to us as “Coco”) grew up in Stockton, California. Like a lot of kids, then and now, she faced the challenges of cutbacks to music programs in schools.
“I started out playing trombone. I thought I wanted to be in a punk/ska band. When my family moved to a different school district, my new school didn’t have a music program so I had to give the instrument back after two months. That’s why MusicLandria is so important!”
Music remained a strong influence in Courtney’s life despite the lack of resources, community, and encouragement. At the age of six she got a Nirvana CD from her friend’s older sister and fell in love. NIN and Smashing Pumpkins were some more of her early favorites.
Courtney explained, “I became obsessed with music, but never thought I could create it myself until recently.”
In her mid-20s, when she moved to Sacramento, Courtney began writing songs with an acoustic guitar in her bedroom, and composing electronic music on her phone. Still, she felt a lack of opportunities to share and collaborate. Until she met MusicLandria!
Courtney first heard about MusicLandria at the Sac Stay Home Fest music festival in 2016. Six months after a bad breakup, she decided one night to branch out, and visited Red Museum to check out the scene. She caught the tail end of the last band, and afterward, Buddy (MusicLandria’s founder) gave his speech.
“I was floored! I tried to imagine what the library looked like and thought it was just gonna be a bunch of band instruments for kids… but he kept talking, and I realized they had real gear; for musicians, for everyone.”
She was inspired to invite Buddy to talk about the library on the podcast she was hosting at the time, Alien Club (https://alienclubpodcast.com/) and came over to MusicLandria for a welcome tour. “I was like, WTF, are you joking?” Courtney immediately availed herself of the mind-boggling array of instruments at the library. What’s more, she found the communal support she’d never had.
“At 28, I’d never been in a band. MusicLandria was the first time I had ever jammed with anyone. That’s one of the great things about MusicLandria: the community.”
At MusicLandria’s Women and Allies Music Night in 2016, Courtney played for the first time with a group of supportive peers who, she jokes, referring to her now-darker musical style, “pulled me out of my shell, though they didn’t know what monsters lurked beneath.” There, she was able to experiment with a variety of instruments including the Line 6 DL4, which had been very inspiring to her. She’d had limited access to the pedal previously, so now, through the Library, she could check it out and take it home with her to learn at her own pace. In her words, “Redemption!”
At MusicLandria, she joined NBok!s, an improvisational ensemble, and landed her first gig at Art Street, playing for a full house. Not long after, with the help of the Library’s resources, Courtney was able to start her first band.
“MusicLandria gave me the confidence I needed to create new music by providing tools I previously had no access to. It helped me rebuild my once-broken identity around being an artist.”
Coco’s all-time favorite MusicLandria items include the Line 6 green loop pedal, Novation UltraNova w/ vocoder, and autoharps. “More autoharps!” she said. “They’re really cool for learning music. You can change chords just like that— it’s easy!”
The challenge of learning new instruments, however, is one thing that keeps Courtney coming back to the Library. When she checked out MusicLandria’s Arturia MicroBrute synthesizer, Coco sat down and read the manual “for the first time ever.” She watched several hours of YouTube tutorials to really get to know the synth. “Learning how to use the instrument, learning muscle memory, will allow the music to move through me into the instrument.”
Courtney is a testament to the fact that folks from all musical backgrounds can find the courage to create. You can too! Sign up to become a member today, and consider making a year-end donation to ensure that young people like Coco can continue to find their musical community through the Library of MusicLandria.
THANK YOU for making stories like Courtney’s possible!