Every town should be lucky enough to have a woman like Peggy Rowley. She touched the lives of thousands in Bay County through her championing of the Bay Area Community Foundation and the Bay City Fireworks Festival, and her support of causes from the Railtrail to Tobico Marsh to the Friendship Shell.
Bay City Players benefited from Rowley’s first love—music. She began playing the violin when she was five years old, taught first by her sister Nan and later by Loren Cady and Arnold Taylor. Even her violin was made in Bay City by Stanley Majznerski in 1928. She paid for it by giving lessons herself in high school. Her music teachers connected her with community members who provided her with a scholarship to Interlochen. That gesture led Peggy to provide similar opportunities to hundreds of students through the Bay Arts Council and Bay Music Foundation.
Peggy played in every iteration of the “pit” at Players, starting with Players’ very first musical in 1961, The Boy Friend. Like many of our musicians, she endured the loud and smelly interruptions of the infamous sump pump in way too many performances. The latest renovation, which removed the pump and added a ramp, was a benefit for all our musicians. Peggy customarily brought in her renowned Triple Chocolate Kahlua Cake; the string players would enjoy it, while wind players didn’t dare touch it until the show was over! Of course, she always saved some for them.
“Mom loved classic upbeat musical theater, shows like The Music Man and Mame, sad shows like Les Miserables not as much,” says Kathy Staudacher. One of her favorite experiences at Players was Stages of Discovery performing Pirates of Penzance at Bay City’s Tall Ships Festival, as it combined wonderful music with community and student involvement-three of her favorite things.
Kathy was only 12 when she joined her mother in the pit for a musical at Players; it was The Sound of Music in 1966. That was typical. Peggy taught violin for years and loved to introduce student players to pit orchestras here and in the many high school productions she played for over the years.
Another favorite show was Crazy for You in 2016 with its fabulous Gershwin score, especially important because it was the last show Kathy and Peggy played together at Players. “We played together as often as possible over a span of fifty years in the BCP pit,” says Kathy.
Peggy Rowley epitomized the volunteers at Players. She volunteered for many years, brought others into the group, and loved what she did here. Thank you, Peggy, for sharing your talents with us.
Article by Elizabeth Dewey