Steven and Jan Houser give community a musical soul
Monday, September 27, 2010
Conducting with both her body’s sway and her distinctive left hand cue, the worship music flows from Jan Houser and her piano through the choir’s voice, hopefully to touch congregation members’ souls Sunday mornings at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, where she is music director.
Her humble yet equally talented husband, Steven, can be found singing in the choir’s back row, providing interlude on his saxophone, or quietly making technical adjustments for Jan throughout a Sunday’s service, too.
Whether it’s musical endeavors or the life they’ve built together during 42 years, the Housers both complement and compliment one another.
In the community, Jan supports the hours and efforts Steven puts in to conduct the Jefferson City Symphony Orchestra, even when this year’s opening concert Tuesday falls on their wedding anniversary. And he encourages her endeavors, including leadership of music education organizations and accompanying the Jefferson City Cantorum for more than 30 years.
At home, Jan encourages his green thumb in the two acres behind her studio, as Steven supports whatever she needs to teach her approximately 40 piano and theory students ranging in age from 5 to 69 — even two grand pianos.
Together, they have become a fixture in the musical community, leading among other things, many of The Little Theatre’s musicals and the Capital City Council on the Arts programs in the last few decades.
“We perform; we teach; we direct; we conduct,” Jan said. “We love music; we see the results of how it touches people and we feel it ourselves.”
The couple met at the University of Indianapolis, when Steven needed an accompanist who could handle some complex music.
“It was phenomenal the way she could play,” Steven said.
Likewise, Jan said, “I fell in love with that saxophone player.
“That’s how we started was making music together.”
They recognize each others’ talents as well as the time and energy it takes to continue to refine them.
Jan’s talents are nationally-known, well-enough that several professional performers have left their personal accompanists at home when they know they’re traveling to Jefferson City and can have her back them up, Steven said.
Early in their careers, Jan had a big opportunity to study in Paris with the legendary Nadia Boulanger.
“It’s because of who I married,” Jan said. “He’s always been there to support me and understand what I really wanted to do — which is to teach.”
She actually began “teaching” as an elementary student in a one-room school, as she would conduct music class for her schoolmates and accompanied church hymns too on an upright piano in the corner.
“Music seemed to be my gift and it made people happy,” Jan remembered. “Teaching seemed natural.”
Steven, a child prodigy who was conducting his peers by the time he was in high school, has played his reed instruments behind the likes of Gladys King and Beverly Sills, Jan praised.
For a community this size, it’s unusual to have a symphony orchestra, Steven said.
But he enjoys the unique interplay between the high school students who’ve been playing only a few years and the high-level amateurs who’ve been at it for even half a century. Steven also takes satisfaction in watching the students transform from freshman “faking a lot of the notes” to confident and competent seniors who will take with them the experience of playing about 80 of the major orchestral works.
“Music is another language that touches people’s mental and emotional make-up,” Steven said. “When you come to the symphony, you can put away your concerns and life’s stress for awhile.”
They both benefited from studying under some great music educators through their formative years.
“It’s your teachers who influence you so much,” Houser said. “As a teacher, you never know what you might say that stays with them.”
The Housers hope they are models that their students will emulate, taking their talents into their communities, whether at church or at other events. That encourages them that music will be passed on to future generations.
“I think music is a gift from God,” Jan said. “It’s our responsibility to nurture and develop that talent.”
In Mid-Missouri: 34 years
Family: son, Steve Houser and his wife, Janice; their two children, Steven and Emily
Professor emeritus from Lincoln University after 30 years; musician, music and woodwind instructor
BME Wright State University; MA The Ohio State University; PhD University of Missouri; Fulbright Scholar to Egypt
Conductor of the Jefferson City Symphony Orchestra, bassoonist with the Columbia Civic Orchestra, music director for numerous Jefferson City Little Theatre musicals, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church choir member and instrumental soloist, past president of the Capital City Council on the Arts, Learning In Retirement instructor, past president of Mid-Missouri Area Music Teachers Association, past president of the Missouri Music Teachers Association, and past conductor of the Lake Area Community Orchestra.
Age: 67 Profession:
Certified studio piano teacher, music director of traditional worship at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, former faculty member of several universities
BS in music education, University of Indianapolis; MM in piano performance, Ball State University, certificate-ecoles E-Art Americaines from Fontainebleau, France
Director/organist/pianist at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church 31 years, pianist for Jefferson City Cantorum 31 years, pianist for Jefferson City Symphony Orchestra, music director and vocal coach for numerous Jefferson City Little Theatre musicals, duo-piano performer with Meg Gray at Lincoln University, pianist with the Midwest Lyric Opera Company, pianist for the Missouri Symphony Society Summer Music Festival, Missouri Choral Directors Association Outstanding Central District Director, Zonta Woman of Achievement nominee, two-term president and founding member of the Mid-Missouri Music Teachers Association, past president of the Missouri Music Teachers Association and selected Teacher of the Year, National Federation of Music Clubs junior festival chairman, National Piano Guild chairman for Jefferson City, co-chairman of the Missouri Federation of Music Clubs College Student Auditions, board member for Jefferson City Community Concerts Association and for the Capital City Council on the Arts.