Mary Gardiner

In Memoriam: Mary Gardiner (1932 – 2010)
Mary Elizabeth Gardiner (nee Rutherford)

(Toronto, ON) The Canadian Music Centre is extremely sad to say goodbye to Mary Gardiner – an awarded composer, pianist, educator, adjudicator, mentor and great champion of Canadian music – who passed away on January 30. She was 77.

Mary’s earliest music studies were on the piano, with her mother at first and then later with Elsie Bennett. After graduating piano studies with honours in 1953, she became an Associate Performer of the Royal Conservatory of Music and went on to complete a Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Toronto in 1954. Further to these studies, Mary qualified as a public school teacher and taught English and vocal music at the high school level for a number of years before giving it up to pursue her musical path as a recitalist, accompanist, private music teacher and composer.

As an educator, Mary has had a lasting influence on Canadians’ awareness of their own musical heritage. Whether it was as a teacher, adjudicator, workshop clinician or composer of educational music, she made a significant and generous commitment to both students and educators, having shared with them an awareness and appreciation of Canadian composers’ music. One of the most enduring means by which she has ensured the continuance of this work was developed during her extended tenure as President of the Alliance for Canadian New Music Projects, when she helped establish a number of Contemporary Showcase centres that, to this day, promote the performance and enjoyment of Canadian music by young musicians. During this time, Mary also encouraged Canadian composers to write new music suitable for performance by young musicians and oversaw the regular updating of the Contemporary Showcase syllabus, providing an invaluable resource for Canadian contemporary music in all genres for both instruction and performance. In addition, she offered clinics to teachers that introduced Canadian music to them, breaking down barriers to this music’s inclusion in private music teaching.

As a composer, Mary studied with Samuel Dolin in 1975-79 and subsequently went on to create a body of work for both student and professional musicians that has been published, recorded, broadcast, performed and critically acclaimed across Canada and internationally. Most recently, Mary received the inaugural Calgary Art Song Prize for her vocal work A Spider’s Story. In addition, she and her music were paid tribute in Toronto on October 23, 2009 at the sold out concert titled “It’s About Time”.

Mary was a very good natured and giving soul who worked tirelessly to bring Canadian music to many Canadians, especially the children and youth of our country. She gave the benefits of her clear thinking, kind heart, extensive experience and industrious nature to numerous organizations, including the Canadian Music Centre, the Alliance for Canadian New Music Projects and the Association of Canadian Women Composers, the latter which she founded and chaired for many years. Her wisdom and guidance have benefited the CMC greatly; not only through her dedicated service as an Ontario Regional Councillor, a National Board member, a longstanding Voting Member and an active Associate Composer, but also through the presence of her calm manner, steadfastness, dependability and abundant generosity.

Undoubtedly, numerous others with whom Mary came in contact were as blessed with the same benefits of her devotion to music, her bighearted nature and her positive demeanour. It was for these reasons that Mary was recognized for her exceptional commitment to Canadian music, and as a ‘builder of bridges between composers and teachers and students’, with the 2003 Friends of Canadian Music Award – a select national honour bestowed upon only a very few since its inception in 1995. The results of all these excellent qualities, expressed through such generous actions, create a remarkable legacy upon which we all can continue to support Mary’s dreams for the study, appreciation and enjoyment of Canadian music.

Now, it is our responsibility not only to remember all that was good about Mary, but to carry forward her hopes in our own work. In this way we can ensure that her achievements continue to be felt in the present and by future generations.