Photo/Ed Karvoski Jr.
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Grafton/Westborough – While working a 25-year banking career, Cam Sowa also spent periods of time regularly traveling distances from her Westborough home to play flute at several out-of-town venues. Now retired, she’s enjoying her nearby and longtime musical relationships with St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Westborough and Apple Tree Arts (ATA) in Grafton.
Perhaps an acceptance of travelling began when her father’s work as a chemical engineer moved the family a few times. While living in upstate New York, Sowa attended a school with a new band. Students were tested to determine if they had the qualifying skills for a music class.
“I passed the test,” she declared. “They asked us what instrument we wanted to play. The only instrument I thought I’d like was the flute. A flute sounds pretty and adds so much to melodic pieces.”
The family lived in New Jersey when Sowa was a seventh-grader playing flute in her school orchestra and marching band. She fondly remembers coming home from school and hearing her mother playing Frederic Chopin compositions on the piano. They’d spend afternoons listening to classical music together on a record player.
Another move brought the family to Massachusetts. While scouting for a house during the summer, they lived in a cottage at Lake Quinsigamond in Shrewsbury. Come September, Sowa attended Shrewsbury High School with hopes of playing flute in its marching band.
“To join the band, one had to audition,” she recalled. “My skills weren’t up to par, so I didn’t make it into the band and was very disappointed.”
Two months later, the family settled in Westborough in 1957. Westborough High School provided her flute lessons and welcomed her to play in its marching band. Since that move, she has called Westborough her home and St. Stephen’s Church her parish.
While raising her daughters Cindy and Michelle, Sowa rekindled her love for music in the mid-1980s. She joined a musical group at St. Stephen’s called On Eagles Wings. They toured the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts.
Among their performance venues was a church in Whitinsville. After their concert, a parishioner invited Sowa to join a new flute choir based in Northbridge. Sowa accepted the invitation and performed with them for two years.
Closer to her home, Sowa played flute and piccolo in the musical “Annie, Get Your Gun” with the Westborough Players’ Club during its 1987-‘88 season. Soon afterward, she heard that a flute choir was starting at the Thayer Performing Arts Center in Lancaster. She auditioned and was accepted to perform with the choir.
In 2000, a St. Stephen’s parishioner asked Sowa if she’d give their daughter flute lessons. She did instruct her and ultimately more students with private lessons.
“I taught for a couple years, but then I worked my banking job for 10 hours a day, so couldn’t do it anymore,” Sowa explained.
In 2007, a neighbor and friend suggested that Sowa join the ATA Community Chorus in Grafton. She somehow found time to give it a try.
“I told my friend that I couldn’t sing,” Sowa relayed. “My friend said, ‘Join anyway – you can learn to sing.’”
Sowa did learn to sing. Additionally, since 2008, she has served as the ATA board vice president. She also yearned to return to playing flute. Sowa took flute lessons for three years from the same teacher who instructed her daughter Cindy while in high school. Now, Sowa still sings with the ATA chorus and joined its flute choir in retirement. She appreciates the opportunity to volunteer with ATA, a nonprofit community school serving varied types of artists from young children to adults.
“I’m very pleased to be a part of such a great organization as ATA,” she said. “What we do there is good for so many people of all ages.”
Her longtime commitment to music ministry also continues at St. Stephen’s. She served a three-year stint as its music coordinator and now performs with the church choir.
“It’s great to be involved in the community, especially with nonprofits because they help so many people in a lot of ways,” she said. “As we get older, we need to keep active and do good work. To me, that’s what it’s all about.”