Friday, March 28, 2008

A life in many acts

Humanitarian award to be given at luncheon


By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer

R.L. Rowsey

If there was an award for being an excellent conversationalist, Hailey resident R. L. Rowsey might win it. As it is, the Light on the Mountains Spiritual Center will award the fifth annual Ann and Doug Christensen Humanitarian Award to Rowsey on Saturday, April 5, at 11:30 a.m. at the Sun Valley Lodge dining room. He is equally deserving of both titles.

According to Miriam-Webster Dictionary, a humanitarian is one who promotes "human welfare and social reform: philanthropist."

Rowsey does more than promote human welfare. For him, the arts and especially music is how he reaches people. By his own admission his aptitude tests in school pointed him toward a career as a psychologist. His teachers were disappointed that he opted for music.

"I have communication skills," he said. "I was lucky I fell into leadership roles early on. I grew up in a Southern Baptist church. Our organist was the first woman to graduate from Juilliard with a master's degree in both organ and piano. When she retired I took over. I was 15. Then I played for auditions and then in the pit for shows and then I was conducting from the pit. I think I developed leadership style before I knew what I was doing."

He is also a good listener, and conversations with Rowsey have a lovely, free-flowing sensibility that manages to retain a focus. These skills make him an effective teacher as well.

Rowsey moved here eight years ago from Richmond, Va. A Core Company member of the Company of Fools in Hailey, he instantly got to work with the company as musical director and an actor.

He has been a mentor to numerous musical students, is artistic director of the Sun Valley Summer Symphony School of Music, assistant conductor of Caritas Chorale, musical director at Light on the Mountains and a board member of the Hailey Chamber of Commerce.

Once a week, at 7 a.m., Rowsey teaches music to the freshman and sophomore girls' vocal group, Enchanté. And for several weeks each year he teaches in the elementary schools in the Company of Fools' educational outreach program, Stages of Wonder.

"I think I showed up at the right time," he said. "I thought I'd have this relaxed time here. Then I realized it's not the location. It's about me. I have been involved with Light on the Mountains since I got here. I thought it would be a great way to meet another set of people. I fell in love with them. They were going through changes and I was a constant—playing piano, singing."

Small towns have an attraction. Rowsey grew up in Sandstone, Va., a place not unlike Hailey.

"There's something about being responsible and knowing whether it's working or not," he said. "When you're anonymous, like in a city, no one calls you on stuff. Here people know your business, good or bad. You get fuel back. It's easier to be busy here."

One thing Rowsey brought to Light on the Mountains was the "Thought of the Day," which he generally winged on the spot.

When the search for a spiritual leader was still at work, he stood in front of the congregation--"We have to be bold in our vision," he told them.

"Sure enough, bold in our vision meant John Moreland," he said.

In fact, Moreland, who arrived in 2002, has greatly increased the visibility, the members and the overall wellness of the Light on the Mountains community. One of the events that came to fruition is the Ann and Doug Christensen Humanitarian Award. The award honors people whose work in the community is an example of the principles promoted by A Season for Non-Violence, which annually runs from Jan. 30 through April 4, another aspect Moreland brought to Light on the Mountains.

Inspired by the memorial anniversaries of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, it's a national campaign dedicated to the idea that nonviolence is a compelling way to transform and empower lives and communities.

Past recipients are Ann and Doug Christensen of Ketchum, Sally Donart of Ketchum, Rob and Kris Cronin of Hailey and Char Roth and Bruce Tidwell of Hailey.

Naturally, Rowsey, a humble man of great humor and wit, doesn't feel worthy of mention in the same sentence as those honorees.

"I am on the committee. I had put names in but I wasn't getting any e-mails about the possibilities," he said. "When they announced it, I was speechless. I have always done arts since I was 6 and sat down at a piano. The gift (of this) has been that I stopped and looked at the why of what I do. It's not just people like Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama that have an impact. It's school teachers and the person who stops their car for a dog in the street."

Rowsey credits his late father for instilling in him a giving nature.

"He was my greatest inspiration and best friend. He had incredible woodworking skills and made everything in the house. But he also helped anyone who asked. He couldn't say 'no.' It wasn't work. He loved it. I can't pound a nail in wood but I picked up other skills along the way and it seems right to use them."

For Rowsey, a humanitarian is a person who is aware of their impact on others, who speaks up for what they believe in, who participates.

"You have to wake up and then you see there's stuff to do, he said. "Being active—that's when life is good."

To reserve a seat at the luncheon, contact Marty Carnevale at 622-8127 or martyc216@cox.net. Reservation deadline is April 1, April Fools Day. Cost of the luncheon is $30.




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