Most in Morris are surprised when they discover that a couple who are dynamos in the entertainment industry are nestled in a cozy home in the historic east side of town.
Clayton and Courtney Melocik set up their home base in Morris last year after getting married in the summer. They realized they needed to live in a more central location for their travels than where they were before — in Arizona.
Clayton knows the area well, having grown up in Mazon. His parents, Kurt and Sue Lynn, still live there.
“Every place we live has been a pit stop,” Courtney said.
The couple, Clayton, a backstage sound engineer, and Courtney, an actress/singer/dancer, have performed all over the country and in Canada, but lately their venues have mostly been in the Midwest.
Right now, they are both on tour with pianist Jim Brickman’s holiday tour, “On a Winter’s Night,” that began Dec. 4 in New Hampshire, travels through Virginia, Missouri, Minnesota, South Carolina and 16 other states before ending up in Dallas on New Year’s Eve. Clayton is the sound engineer and head of audio and Courtney is the merchandise manager.
Courtney’s jobs are usually on-stage roles, but she had experience in “merch” managing and accepted this offer as a rare chance to be on the same assignment as her husband. The newlyweds are usually going opposite directions at the same time.
Clayton has worked two years of The Super Bowl, (42 and 45), a national tour of “Footloose,” “The MTV Show,” a Sammy Hagar tour, the Milwaukee Summerfest and tours of “The Wedding Singer” and “Beehive, The 60’s Musical.”
He also worked a campaign event for President Barack Obama before he was elected to his first term.
He mixed TV feed and live feed for Senator John McCain and Sarah Palin two weeks before the same election.
Clayton also plays drums for the local band, “Daniel’s Window,” a Christian rock band.
Courtney has had roles singing, narrating, dancing and/or acting in tours of “High School Musical,” “All Shook Up,” “Alice in Wonderland, Jr.,” “The Wedding Singer” and “Beehive, The 60’s Musical.”
Courtney actually had her actorial debut on the national airwaves when she was just a baby. In a story that sounds more like an urban legend than the beginning of a career, her mother was approached by an agent one day while shopping in a Los Angeles grocery store. The agent was interested in using Courtney in a commercial.
Baby Courtney ended up in a starring role in a Kellogg’s’ Strawberry Squares cereal commercial that ran nationally for four years.
“From there,” she said, “I was kind of a commercial kid.”
Growing up in Los Angeles, Courtney was surrounded by a musical family. And it was a large family, she said. Her grandparents had 11 children, and from there the family grew almost exponentially. Plus, the climate in the city was very pro-entertainment.
“Growing up in L.A.,” she said, “You’re kind of in the music business by default.”
Courtney was influenced growing up by 70’s and 80’s R & B music and by soul, and by the gospel music she was raised on in church.
“We were like the Von Trapps,” she said with a laugh. “Most of my aunts and uncles sing in church. My mom sang with a group called, “The Gospel Pearls,” and at home, there was always something musical going on.”
She remembers, when she was pretty young, she had sat in on so many rehearsals of an all-woman musical her aunt was in that she knew every part.
“They used me as a stand-in when someone was gone,” she said.
In school, Courtney was in chorus and played flute. She played piano by ear then later took lessons, but it wasn’t until she was in high school that she truly got bitten by the entertainment bug. As a freshman, she landed the lead role in the musical, “Into the Woods,” which was the senior play.
“That was all it took,” she said, “and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
For the next four years, she had key roles in her school’s productions, then she attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy after graduation — her first year in L.A. and her second in New York City.
“My dream was to move to New York and be a big Broadway star,” she said.
It was quite a culture shock, though, going from her neighborhood in L.A. to The Big Apple. She was only 18 years old. But the experience was very valuable, she said.
“It was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had,” she said. “Our teachers were actual working actors, still in the industry. ... We had mock auditions with real casting directors. One of our guest lecturers was Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays Mitchell Pritchett on “Modern Family.”
It wasn’t long after graduation that a series of productions led her to the “swing” position on a tour of “Beehive, The 60’s Musical.” Clayton was on crew with the musical.
Like Courtney, Clayton also had a musical background, playing percussion in the Seneca High School band. He played in the Jazz Band, Concert Band and even Marching Band, where the director put him center field with an entire drum set during football halftimes. Both of his parents enjoyed music, too, with his father playing trumpet and his mother piano and organ.
Clayton’s dad, a mechanical engineer, also passed along a love of figuring out complicated mechanisms and working with his hands.
“He and I were doing brake jobs when I was seven,” Clayton said. “My best friend and I were always into car stereos and electrical stuff back then, too.”
Clayton entered college with an electrical engineering major, but soon felt that was not a good fit for him. After coming home and working at a Dwight business for a while, he continued to feel a strong pull toward the entertainment industry.
Playing on the side in the local band, “Hollow Shot,” with some high school friends jump-started his career interest even more.
At the age of 24, he moved to Phoenix and enrolled in the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences. He also joined a large church there and began playing in their worship band. A Christian, he loved the opportunities to spread the word of God through his talent. The largest event he played there was a 40,000-person concert for a Fourth of July celebration, where he played two songs.
At the same time, Clayton was also meeting other professional musicians through contacts around Phoenix and became more involved in sound engineering. He learned how to go through line checks, how to mix the board to the P.A. system, how to do sound checks and mix the show and the monitors, and a lot more. He loved both aspects of his burgeoning career – performing on stage and doing the sound backstage.
Then, in 2007, he ran across a young woman who piqued his interest. Touring with Courtney in “Beehive, The 60’s Musical,” Clayton was attracted to her and wanted to get to know her better.
“He asked me if I wanted to hang out at the pool one night when we were in Michigan,” Courtney said.
She said she did, but she thought Clayton’s intentions were for the crew and the dancers to all hang out together at the pool. Her girlfriends said they hadn’t heard anything about that, though, and one of them was sent down to “casually” stroll by the pool area to see who was there. It was Clayton, by himself, waiting for Courtney in the hot tub.
That’s when Courtney realized he was interested in her.
“We spent an hour in the hot tub together,” she said.
The news that the two were an item quickly spread throughout the touring company before they even returned from the pool room, and the couple has been together ever since.
After the Beehive tour, they went on separate tours for quite a while, racking up large phone bills and getting to know each other long-distance.
“We had the long distance thing down to a science,” Clayton said.
“During those first two years,” Courtney added, “we were always working. We were always on the road. Every four to six weeks, we would have a visit. It was rough, but it worked pretty well.”
Then, they both landed the same tour of, “The Wedding Singer,” and got to be together every day for a while.
“That’s when we found out that even though we were getting to know each other,” Clayton said, “we really didn’t.”
“We still had basic relationship things to work out,” Courtney said.
But work it out they did, and on Aug. 9, 2010 (8-9-10), Clayton proposed, and Courtney accepted. They were married last July just outside Phoenix.
Their married life is a bit different than most, they agreed, with one or the other jetting off to assignments here and there, but they also agree that they love the entertainment industry and want to keep that as their careers.
Seeing how happy the productions make the audience is the best part of it for both of them.
“I just like the sheer joy on people’s faces,” Courtney said. “I have a talent, and to be able to share that, it just really feels great.”
Clayton echoed his wife’s sentiments and added another great thing about his career is the variety.
“I’m not working in the same spot every day,” he said. “I wake up, and I’m already at work.”
He also loves playing in the Christian band, Daniel’s Window.
“When you play for kids who are in the beginning stages of their faith,” he said, “it really feels good.”
They both have hopes of touring a foreign country someday. Clayton has been in 48 of the United States, and Courtney has been in 43.
Clayton and Courtney Melocik are currently on tour with Jim Brickman’s “On a Winter’s Night” musical production. Shows are scheduled through the end of December. More information can be found at www.jimbrickman.com.