Organist honored for service

June 15, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

HANCOCK - Take it from Gwynne Cavey, if you want your Sunday mornings free, don't become a church organist.

Cavey didn't listen to that advice years ago when she embarked on her musical odyssey. She recently was honored at St. Thomas' Episcopal Church for her 20 years as minister of music there.

"I was introduced to music by my mother and my sister was my first piano teacher," Cavey said. That was in Howard County, Md., and while she admitted not liking to practice, she followed through for a number of reasons.

"My mother would set the timer on the oven and if she didn't hear me playing, she'd yell at me," Cavey said. She kept up with the piano and studied under another teacher.


When she was 18, Cavey got an offer she couldn't refuse - a job playing the organ at a Catholic church.

"I made $5 a Mass and got supper in between," she said.

That church had a small organ and although Cavey hadn't played the organ before, the church members told her to get out there and figure it out - otherwise they would have nobody to play for their services.

"So I figured it out - it's different but similar," she said.

In those early years, Cavey said, she noticed there were plenty of people available to play for churches.

"When I was growing up, people didn't go away so much," she said. "Now many musicians don't want to be tied down weekends at a church."

Cavey begins her Sundays playing organ at St. Peter's Catholic Church at 7:30 a.m. Then she plays for the 10 a.m. service at St. Thomas'. "I do funerals and weddings for both of them," she said.

She also is in charge of picking the hymns and holding choir practices. And at this time of year, Cavey has been called upon to play for graduation activities at Hancock High School.

In her "spare" time, she gives private piano lessons in her home and operates a school bus. Her husband, John, is an owner/operator of a tractor-trailer. They have two daughters, Alexis and Virginia.

Transplants from Columbia, Md., in 1979, the Caveys saw an advertisement for the house they now live in and bought it shortly after seeing it for the first time.

On a recent balmy day, Cavey and one of her students, Tatum True, 10, were working on a "velocity" piece on Cavey's piano in her parlor.

Draped with a fringed shawl and laden with family photographs, the piano rang out with Tatum's efforts to improve her skills.

"This piece will make you a good, strong pianist," Cavey said as she encouraged the young girl to learn it by memory and practice, practice, practice.

Cavey said she loves the small-town feel of Hancock.

"I sit there and look around at the families and realize that I've played for their baptisms, weddings and family funerals," she said.

As an example, she mentioned Stephen Weatherholt, son of the Revs. Allan and Anne Weatherholt.

"I have played for Stephen's baptism, his confirmation and his graduation," Cavey said. "And I'll probably play for his wedding some day."

Cavey said she is glad she stayed with her music lessons.

"When you learn to play the piano, you acquire a skill that people are envious of - no matter where you go, they're glad to see you."

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