Dave Rowley

For the love of music

When Dave Rowley played his first piano recital as a youngster, he trembled in fright. But when the Iowa Great Lakes-area musician performs now, it is with pure joy. In between, it has been an interesting journey.

Today, Rowley is an agency marketing/sales consultant for HP Insurance and Blum-Leonard, with offices in Rock Rapids, Sibley, and Estherville, Iowa. He also performs about 25 times a year at venues in and around Okoboji, a tourist destination located near the Iowa-Minnesota border about 90 miles east of Sioux Falls, S.D.

Musical headwaters

The Rowley family home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, had a grand piano that Dave played as a young boy. But that early live performance left him with stage fright, so it wasn’t until age 12 that he recovered enough to buy a Gibson Melody Maker guitar. With the Beatles and Motown as influences, his self-taught proficiency on that instrument reinforced his love for music.

After graduating from the University of Iowa, Rowley made his way to San Diego and found a gig playing happy hour at a restaurant for $25 a night. Those live performances buoyed his confidence, although to this day he experiences nervousness before taking the stage.

On a trip back to Cedar Rapids he met his wife, Chris, and began to play the eastern Iowa musical scene. His performances stretched to Chicago, Milwaukee, and Lawrence, Kansas, making good money playing restaurants and bars and heightening his skills as a guitarist and vocalist.

Insurance gives Rowley safe harbor

Insurance was the Rowley family business — his father owned an agency in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He considered joining the agency but accepted a position as an underwriter trainee with a carrier. After a break from insurance, he returned to the industry as a marketing representative covering western Iowa and southwestern Minnesota. He and and his wife Chris moved to Okoboji in 1996, where they still live.

Shortly after relocating, Rowley switched to the agency side where he was the principal for an agency. He’s written Grinnell Mutual policies for more than 20 years.

His pride in working in the insurance industry matches his passion for music.

“I stuck with insurance because I believe in our industry so much,” said Rowley. “It is a business based on trust and mutual understanding. I’ve always had the deepest respect for our industry and the people who we work. It’s about bringing people back after a loss occurs — helping others through an unforeseen loss or event that can impact their lives.”

Rowley takes the helm on stage

His live performances waned a bit upon the move, but in 2002 the fledgling Little Swan Lake Winery near Superior, Iowa hired him. The venue became a regular gig for Rowley and he continues to play there monthly, though the shows are on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is a great release to entertain folks and just have fun and relaxation,” said Rowley. The exposure opened a host of other playing opportunities.

After joining the board of directors at the Pearson Lakes Art Center in Okoboji, it was suggested to Rowley that he head a project to stage a concert of local entertainers. In 2004, the first Dave Rowley & Friends concert and was performed to about a hundred enthusiastic guests. The act became an annual event. Last summer the Dave Rowley & Friends show celebrated its 15th anniversary, selling out the last nine consecutive events.

Between shows at the winery, Rowley & Friends concerts, and other performances, Rowley plays about 25 times a year. He is quick to deliver kudos to his fellow musicians Ryan Sather, piano; Perry Pearson, guitar; Brent Wallin, bass; Gary Lambert, drums; Carlis Faurot, violin; and Carley Wells, drums.

“The act would be incomplete without them,” Rowley said. “They are my friends, fine musicians, and good, good people. We have great fun performing together.”

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Adapted with permission from Vacation Okoboji.