Arizonans Honored as ‘Music Family of the Year’ : 15 Musical Instruments Are Just a Few of Their Favorite Things

From Times Wire Services

Piano and harp playing, flute and violin lessons, singing, skiing, track, ventriloquism, poetry writing and performing for charity fund-raisers--these are just some of the activities of the Holyoak family of Paradise Valley, Ariz.

Garth Holyoak, his wife, Kathleen, and their daughters--Heather, 14, Michelle, 12, Keri, 9, and Karisa, 6--have been named the American Music Conference’s 1987 “Amateur Music Family of the Year.”

AMC, a national, nonprofit association with headquarters in Chicago, presents the award annually to recognize families that exemplify the musical activities of 57 million U.S. amateur musicians. More than 60 families from around the country were nominated this year.

The Holyoaks were honored not only for their music-making involvement at home but for sharing their music with others in their community.


“Our family has been brought closer through the sharing of our music,” says Kathleen Holyoak. “We have learned what commitment and responsibility mean. Music is a language everyone can understand, and it has provided us with hours of enjoyment.”

Both the older Holyoaks’ parents encouraged them as young children to take up music, and the couple has carried on that tradition with their daughters. As a child, Kathleen Holyoak was also encouraged by a church leader to nurture her own musical talent and “make it multiply so that I could teach others the joy of making music.”

Collectively, the Holyoaks play 15 separate instruments. Garth Holyoak, a dentist, plays clarinet and piano. His wife, a retired music education teacher, plays the piano, organ, guitar, baritone saxophone, tuba, string bass, cello, xylophone, oboe, snare drums and various percussion instruments.

Heather plays piano and Michelle the piano and harp. Keri and Karisa, are both pianists and soon will be starting flute and violin lessons, respectively.


As a group and individually, the family members have performed at hundreds of civic events, hospitals, nursing homes and fund-raisers.

“We, as parents, feel that the happiest moments our family has shared have been through the performance of music for others,” Kathleen Holyoak says.

Another benefit of music making besides family togetherness and sharing with others, she says, is that it “definitely helps children develop other talents.”

As an example, she says music-making was the foundation for Keri’s poetry writing. “As a small child, Keri would make up tunes, beats and rhythms and then put the songs to words. This is how she still writes her poems.” Many of them have been published and have won awards.


Heather also channels her musical interests in an unusual way. Wanting to combine her love of singing with other disciplines, at age 9 she took up ventriloquism and now has 13 dummies, one of them a singing cowboy named “The Cactus Kid.”

The Holyoak family also participates in a wide variety of other activities, including snow and water skiing, fishing, track and field, softball and basketball and drama, as well as volunteer work.

How do they fit all of this into their schedules?

“Music tends to make you more organized and helps you want to expand your life to go out and do other things,” says Mrs. Holyoak.


Her advice to other parents: “When you teach a child to play an instrument you teach them responsibility and how to share with others. You can’t measure what you receive in return.”

The Holyoaks received the national award. Six families won regional awards: Eastern Region: the Theodore Jenifers, Cheverly, Md.; Northwestern Region: the Robert Lowes, Provo, Utah; Southwestern Region, the Hershel Mosiers, Page, Ariz., and Southern Region, three-way tie: the Terry Carrolls, Goodlettsville, Tenn.; the Thomas Hallams, Atlanta, and the Larry Cockerhams, Julian, N.C.