Putting Music in the Middle

A Gift from Eileen Houston

When he walked into the room, every conversation stopped and every sound ceased. He held every eye and every student held still, not wanting to miss a word or waste a moment of time under his direction.

Like many MSU music alumni of her generation, Eileen Houston (’62 and ’68, Music), who taught middle school band for 38 years, says her most memorable teacher was the late Leonard Falcone, the legendary director of MSU bands.

“I feel an obligation because I learned so much just from watching and listening to him,” she says. “I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did with my kids if not for that,” she says.

A member of the Robert Shaw Donor Society, Eileen created her first endowment to MSU for classical music at WKAR radio in 2010 and also created one for WKAR TV. She also created a third endowment to fund two scholarships for music students with a preference for a trumpet and a trombone player. Last year she started a fourth endowment for music education, tailored to help a student who wants to become a middle school band director.

She has contributed cash gifts to her scholarships so awards could begin immediately.

Matthew Kay, trumpet performance graduate student, is one of the beneficiaries of her generosity. He remembers well the day he learned he had received her scholarship. He had moved his wife and child from New York State and had managed to find a part-time job working for Community Mental Health.

“It was a financially difficult time for me and my family, moving houses and jobs, so when I heard that I had received the scholarship, it was such a huge blessing I could hardly believe it.”

The scholarship enabled the purchase of a piccolo trumpet, essential to his studies and life as a musician. Eileen has also become a friend and never misses Matthew’s recitals.

“I am so grateful to Eileen for her generosity,” he says. “I hope that one day, I will be able to give back and help aspiring students in a similar way.”

Eileen recently committed an additional $500,000 future gift through a charitable life insurance policy naming the MSU foundation as owner and beneficiary. Her future gift will add to her existing endowments but the majority of the future funding will support her latest endowment for music education scholarship.

Eileen knew in high school that she wanted to be a music educator. She also found the love of her life, her late husband Bob, in the Wyandotte High School Band. He played the cornet and she, the trombone.

Bob served four years in the Navy while she went straight to MSU. He followed and they settled into married life in University Village. Bob completed his music degree and she was already teaching.

Back in the 1960s, school teachers started at $4,200 a year.

“But gas was 39 cents a gallon,” Eileen says. “You could get by and you made it work. I always felt it was the right thing for me.”

Bob worked for many years at Marshall Music and taught countless trumpet players in private lessons. The couple also played in the Flint and Lansing Symphonies.

Today, Eileen is retired from Grand Ledge Public Schools but she regularly attends College of Music performances, continues to teach private lessons, and makes an effort to get to know the recipients of her scholarships.

She also keeps in touch with many of her former students. One is a church organist and choir director in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Many perform in MSU music ensembles. Several are music educators.

“They’re all my kids,” she says.

For more information on making a gift to the College of Music, contact Director of Development Rebecca Surian at surian@msu.edu; (517) 353-9872.

Above photo: Matthew Kay, graduate student in music, with his piccolo trumpet, is the grateful recipient of a scholarship created by longtime middle school music educator, Eileen Houston (’62 and ’68, Music).

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