C is for Cellist: Student mixes teaching, performing

Susan Abell Houghton, 22, of Bowling Green has been playing cello since she was 14 years old. She is now a graduate assistant for the WKU Music department and also teaches orchestra at the local elementary and middle schools. “Learning music is a challege, and I am constantly being challenged. I don’t feel like I could ever fully master the cello which makes it fun,” Houghton said.

Katherine Wade

Susan Abell Houghton has played bass clarinet, basketball, piano and tennis. But her real passion is cello.

Houghton, a graduate student from Bowling Green, went with her high school band to Chicago when she was a freshman and listened to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

“After they finished playing, my friend and I both realized neither of us had blinked the whole time,” she said. “We just kept saying, ‘This is awesome!'”

She started playing cello that year. Because her school didn’t offer a string program at the time, she began taking private lessons.

“It was easy and hard at the same time,” she said. “I understood music and theories, but it was the actual playing the instrument I had to catch up on real quick.”

Houghton said she felt behind her peers, many of whom had started playing at much younger ages. Fortunately she had a musical background. She has played piano since third grade and bass clarinet since sixth grade.

She eventually dropped her other instruments to focus on the cello.

“I’ve progressed so much more than I thought I could in the past four years,” Houghton said.

During her time at WKU, she said her cello teacher, Sarah Berry, was a big influence on her.

Berry said Houghton had been an ideal student.

“She takes a lot of pride in her own work, so it’s really fun to teach her,” Berry said. “She wants to learn, and she’s very enthusiastic about her own learning and her own progress.”

Another of Houghton’s music professors, Bill Scott, said Houghton is a very gifted music teacher.

“She loves music and loves being around people,” he said.

Houghton, who graduated with a music education degree, now teaches in one middle school and three elementary schools in Bowling Green.

“I like teaching and it’s a more practical lifestyle,” she said. “A lot of performance majors I know are living paycheck to paycheck. This way I can teach, but I can always still perform too.”

Houghton plays with the Bowling Green Western Symphony Orchestra and the Pauli Quintet, a group that performs at weddings and other events. She also teaches private lessons and is helping to develop the string programs at schools in the area.

“Our goal is for the strings program here to be the fastest-growing and best quality program in the state,” she said.



Berry, who works with the schools as well, said Houghton’s greatest strength is teaching and working with children.

As for her future in music, Houghton has several possible plans. She is considering pursuing a doctorate degree in music education and would love to be on faculty at the New England Music Camp in Sidney, Maine, where she worked a couple of summers ago.

Berry said she expects Houghton to be very successful.

“Wherever she ends up, she’ll be an asset to music education and strings,” Berry said. “I think she’ll do a bang-up job.”