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Kathryn Smith Bowers, conductor, singer and composer, dies at 72

Kathryn Smith Bowers, conductor, singer and composer, dies at 72

Kathryn Smith Bowers

Kathryn Smith Bowers

Music was Kathryn Smith Bowers’ greatest gift and her key to life, the foundation of her career and of her friendships. She conducted choirs, composed for them and sang in them.

“It was singing that brought us together,” said her husband, David Bowers. When they were married, in January 1997, it was during a regular Sunday morning Eucharist at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Ladue; the couple took their places in the choir for carefully selected music by Tomás Luis de Victoria, William McKie, Benjamin Britten and Olivier Messiaen.  

Kathryn Ellen Smith Bowers, DMA, died June 30 at Boulder Community Health-Foothills Medical Campus in Boulder, CO, of complications following heart surgery. She was 72.

Ms. Bowers was born in Ventura, CA, and grew up in Arkansas City, KS. She earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Northwestern University, a Master of Music Degree from the University of Oregon and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Illinois. Before joining the faculty of the Webster University Music Department in 1986, she taught at Butler University, in the Arlington Heights (IL) School District and the Wichita (KS) Public Schools.

Ms. Bowers also studied in the United Kingdom and Germany; she sang with choral ensembles including the Chicago Symphony Chorus, the Frankfurter Kantorei and the Gächinger Kantorei.

Ms. Bowers was director of choral studies and coordinator of music education at Webster University. “Her musical energy was contagious,” said David Bowers. “She came alive in a coaching-teaching environment, and so did the singers as a result.”   

“Kathy came to sing with us when she first got to town,” said Bill Aitken, the longtime former music director at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, “and stayed 26 years. Kathy was a consummate musician, with the highest standards, an intelligent and highly skilled singer, and a brave and confident conductor; all of that was really valuable to us through all those years. She was a core part of the choral program at St. Peter’s.”

“She spoke the language of music in many ways,” said David Bowers, “choral singing, playing violin or viola, performing in recorder ensembles, playing the piano.” After her retirement from Webster University in 2010, she and her husband moved to Estes Park, CO. There, Ms. Bowers directed the Oratorio Society of Estes Park Chorus and Orchestra, and served as organist-choirmaster at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church; this year, she earned the American Guild of Organists' Service Playing Certificate.

The couple recently moved to Longmont, CO.

Ms. Bowers was a daughter of the late Newton C. Smith, MD, and Mary Ellen Smith. Along with her husband, she is survived by a sister, Carolyn Smith Managan, and a brother, Norman Smith. A service and interment are pending, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but planned for St. Bartholomew's.

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Sarah Bryan Miller is the classical music critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; she has also written on a variety of other topics.

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