Houck, ’12, thought she had retired, but earns second degree to become music therapist
It’s a few days after commencement, and recent graduate Evadine Cheryl Houck ’12, is enjoying a vacation in Branson, Mo. It’s a well-deserved break from her recent studies at Maryville, before she starts a summer music therapy internship in Hospice care and bereavement.
At age 68, Houck of Godfrey, Ill., has the distinction of being Maryville’s oldest 2012 graduate. The mother of four and grandmother of 12 was sometimes called “Grandma Cheryl” by other students on campus. What they might not have known is that this is one grandmother with a lifelong love for both music and education, interests she tied together in pursuing her music therapy degree.
Born in Vandalia, Ill., Houck began playing piano at age 5. “It was my whole life, occupation, recreation, therapy, also just for enjoyment,” she said. Her father, Laurel Peyton, was a natural musician who was able to pick up music by ear and played “any instrument with strings,” Houck recalled. She still gives piano lessons, something she has done for 52 years.
His sister, Houck’s aunt Elta Peyton, got Houck her first piano and paid for music books and lessons. When Houck turned 12, her aunt gave her an accordian that Houck still plays. Wehn Houck was in high school, she went to hear the Envoys Quartet perform at Centralia High School in Illinois. Following the performance, she stopped by the table where the quartet was selling its music and began to chat with one of the young men in the musical group. “I think my interest quickly moved from the records to who I was talking to,” she said.
She went on to marry that quartet singer, Tom Houck, and they have four children together: David, Christy, Randy and Suzanne. The Envoys, an all-male group performed from 1966 to 1980. Beginning in 1980, for a decade, the Houcks formed their own singing family group. During the week, Tom would work as an engineer, but on the weekends, the whole family would travel, Missouri, Illinois and Iowa as “The Singing Houcks.” They sold records and had a radio program on KXEN radio (1010 AM). And their youngest Suzanne would often steal the show with her rendition of “God Put a Rainbow in My Window.”
“We’d get back Monday morning, in time for school and work,” Houck said. Houck enrolled in Lewis and Clark Community College once her own children were in school and earned her first bachelor’s degree in 1988 from Southern Illinois University. She coordinated a program at Lewis and Clark for children to take musical instrument and voice lessons. When her aunt passed away, Houck started a handbell choir in her memory, the Riverbend Ringers, who performed in the region for 12 years. Houck also started a group to provide substitute musicians for church services, say on a day when an organist calls in sick. She still runs that business, Master’s Musicians.
Houck thought she was largely retired when she decided to return to school for Maryville’s music therapy program. She says many people assumed she was going to study music theory, rather than music therapy but she wanted to know more about the therapetic uses for music. “Music is a facilitator, the brain is hard-wired for music,” she said.
She would like to work with a geriatric population but says she’s keeping her options open, interested in everything from ways music relieves stress, but also helps people with gait training and speech therapy, as its beats and lyrics assist people with exercises to help them restore or maintain function.
Houck commuted 80 miles a day ’round trip to attend class at Maryville. “It’s worth every mile,” she said of her Maryville experience. And she said those who knew her well weren’t surprised the grandmother earned another diploma. “Some of their mouths might have dropped open, but then they said: `I might have guessed, you don’t sitstill very long.'”