Kay Gardner died of a heart attack Aug. 28. Gardner was a composer, pianist, flutist and conductor who performed around the world. In 1972, she helped found the openly lesbian women's band, Lavender Jane. She was one of the founding forces of women's music, appearing with Alix Dobkin on Lavender Jane Loves Women, on Casse Culver's Three Gypsies, and releasing many of her own recordings.
She was at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival Aug. 13-18, leading an Intensive Workshop, "Singing in Sacred Circle" ( with her partner Colleen Fitzgerald ) .
Gardner was at the forefront of composers creating lyrical music for healing, relaxation and meditation. With her first recording, Mooncircles, in 1975, she pioneered the now-burgeoning field of sound healing. An inspiring teacher, recognized internationally as an authority on the healing properties of music, Gardner traveled to four continents performing her works in concert, presenting keynote addresses at major sound medicine conferences, lecturing at universities, and leading workshops.
Her musical works have been performed by ensembles, choruses and orchestras throughout the U.S., Canada and England.
Gardner performed many times over the years at Chicago's Mountain Moving Coffeehouse.
"Mountain Moving is saddened by the passing of Kay Gardner, one of the foremothers of women's music," said Coffeehouse spokeswoman Kathy Munzer. "She last appeared at the Coffeehouse in May of 2001 in concert with Mary Watkins. Her healing and ethereal music, playful spirit, and generous heart enriched all who knew her and loved her music."
Internet message boards were filled with shock when her death was announced. Numerous memorials are planned, including one in Chicago Saturday, Sept. 21. E-mail Ann Morris at email@example.com or Toni Armstrong Jr. at ToniAJr@aol.com .
Among her CDs: Dancing Souls Improvisations for Flute & Piano ( 2000 ) with Mary Watkins; My Mother's Garden Melodies for Solo Piano ( 1998 ) ; Drone Zone Flutes with world drone instruments ( 1996 ) ; and Amazon Alto flute meditations with live Peruvian jungle sounds ( 1991 ) .
She was also a composer of many chamber and choral works, and was a much-publicized writer, including in journals such as Hot Wire and Ms magazine.
Two weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Gardner walked into the offices of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra with a prelude, "Lament for Thousands." After hearing of Gardner's death, symphony officials decided to schedule Gardner's work for the orchestra's season-opening concert Oct. 13.
More than 20 years ago, Gardner sued the Bangor Symphony, unsuccessfully, for sex discrimination after she had applied for a conducting position and learned that orchestra members were asked how they felt about working with a female conductor. But in 2000, she was the guest conductor for a 40-member orchestra of women from the Bangor Symphony.
Gardner, believed to be in her early 60s, was ordained a priestess in the Fellowship of Isis and founded the Temple of the Feminine Divine in Bangor.
She is survived by daughters Juliana Smith of Delaware and Jenifer Wilson Smith of Bangor; her partner, Colleen Fitzgerald; her mother, Enez Gardner of California; one brother; and two grandchildren.
See www.KayGardner.com .