Karen recalls the day when the neighbors across the street were renovating their house and decided to give an old upright player piano to her family when she was eight years old. With fascination, she began tickling “the ivories” and playing songs by ear. Her parents soon sought out a well-known local piano teacher, Juilliard-trained Mildred Young Shoemaker. For nine years, Mrs. Shoemaker patiently listened as Karen's new compositions were unveiled, reminding her that at least some practice time during the week must be devoted to the assigned Bach and Mozart!
Theatre was a big part of Karen's family while she was growing up in rural New York State. Extended family gatherings still include hours of harmony singing with her mom's sister and family. One of Karen's chores was speaking and acting the remaining lines in a play while her parents practiced their parts for community and professional shows. As a vaudeville man, it was not unusual to find her dad playing the harmonica and tap dancing as well as juggling eggs, a bar of soap, an artichoke and basketballs as part of his juggling workshops. She was always fascinated by her father's home remodeling business floor plan designs and job sites (see Room For Tune).
Karen studied with Jack Gallagher (music theory and composition), Daniel W. Winter and Denise Kahn (classical piano), Dale Moore and Elizabeth Southard (voice), Jack Russell (Wooster Chorus), Josephine Wright (African-American musicology), David Chase (piano pedagogy), and Robert Zazzara (innovative choir and band directing). She met and exchanged letters with film composer Miklos Rosza (Ben Hur and Alfred Hitchcock films).
In NYC, she worked as a choral director, staff accompanist (Mannes College of Music) and dance accompanist (Steps on Broadway, Harkness School of Ballet, Lee Theodore's American Dance Machine). She interacted with Chicago City Limits improv troupe and subsequently was an improv pianist for Vivian Teich's Improvisational Theatre for Children, as well as a vocal coach for a a Weist-Barron School of Acting class. Karen produced a Celebrate Composers 90th Anniversary program as an active member of the Music Educators Association of NJ (MEA-NJ).
Karen is grateful for her family which includes her husband, daughter, stepson, and lots of rescue dog friends.