Remembering Ken Gist

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Harpists are mourning the loss of Ken Gist (1962–2018). A talented harpist, composer, and arranger, he was principal harpist with the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra, and was previously a member of the Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Kentucky of Bowling Green, and the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra. Ken had recently moved to Nashville, Tenn. and was beloved by the music community.

Former harp teacher and friend Faye Seeman told us: “Ken Gist first came into my life in the late 1980s, when he appeared at the Drake Hotel where I played music during High Tea. He introduced himself and told me his dream was to learn how to play the harp. This began a long and happy friendship. Ken put his mind to learning harp technique with abandon, so much so that he purchased a Lyon & Healy Style 30 right away. Impressively, he studied for a summer at the Tanglewood Institute in Massachusetts with Lucile Lawrence after playing for only two years. With his background as a bassoonist with a degree in music from DePaul University in Chicago, he had the perfect skill set to write and arrange for the harp. One of his best compositions was co-composed with Mark Elliot as a performance art piece called “Rhyme or Treason,” using percussionists and dancers. Remixed as a harp trio, the work has been performed many times by my own students and others around the country. One of his most important contributions to harp repertoire were the “Kithara Wonderland” pieces he arranged for my Kithara flute, cello, and harp trio. The album, Kithara Wonderland, was recorded at a local studio on a Lyon and Healy electric harp in 1997. When my trio plays his arrangements at Christmas, we are often brought to tears at their beauty and elegance. Ken will be remembered as a highly intelligent, funny, creative, and loving person. We will all miss him.”

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