Kay said, “Music is my religion” beginning in 1960, when she first began spreading her music to coffeehouse audiences in California. She performed her first composition at the age of four. She studied music throughout her childhood and continued her studies at the University of Michigan. Kay finished her bachelor’s degree and received a Master of Music (Performance) from SUNY Stonybrook in 1972. In the early 1970s, Kay decided to combine all of her talents toward the goal of promoting and making women’s music. In 1972, she was a founding member of the feminist and openly lesbian women’s band, Lavender Jane. Later in the 1970s, Kay pursued her dream of becoming a symphony conductor by founding and recording works of women composers with the New England Women’s Symphony.

By the early 1980s, Kay’s musical focus had shifted to studying the effects of music on the human body and the healing potential of music (see Sound Healer page). In 1993, she met the Bangor Unitarian Universalist women’s community and was inspired along with Colleen Fitzgerald and Pamela Gross to begin a women’s sacred singing circle, Women With Wings. At the time of her death in 2002, Kay served as the music director at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bangor and had just produced Women With Wings’ first CD, Hand in Hand and Heart to Heart.

Two weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, 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 on Oct. 13, 2002.

Kay Gardner was a visionary who saw herself planting the seeds of reconciliation and healing with her gift of music.