Karen was born in Kentucky and educated in Texas at the University of Houston, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Music and Master of Music in vocal performance. Additional study in operetta was completed at the Mozarteum Summer Academy in Salzburg, Austria. In 2006, she graduated from Teachers College, Columbia University with a Doctor of Education Degree.
The Contemporary Commercial Music (CCM) Vocal Pedagogy Institute sponsored by Shenandoah University has also certified her at Level I,II, and III. The Institute trains teachers in vocal pedagogy pertaining to all non-classical forms of singing. It is led by Jeannette LoVetri, known for her Somatic Voicework™, a body-based system of training for CCM. Ms. LoVetri was an integral part of Karen’s doctoral dissertation work, which explored music theater vocal pedagogy. She advised Karen in the form of an internship. Robert Edwin and Mary Saunders, music theater vocal pedagogy experts, reviewed the results of Karen’s doctoral research—a music theater vocal pedagogy teaching guide for classical teachers.
An active member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), in 2012 Karen was appointed one of six Associate Editors for their official research publication, the Journal of Singing, and in the same year was the runner-up for the NATS Vocal Pedagogy Award. Karen was chosen as a participant in the 1995 NATS Intern program, is currently a Board member and the Vice-President for the NATS Rio Grande District, has served on the NATS Board of Directors—Boston Chapter, and on the Board of the New York Singing Teachers Association (NYSTA). While working toward her doctoral degree, she was invited to join Kappa Delta Pi, an honor society in education. A frequent master class clinician and adjudicator, Karen has been invited to present master classes at the Longy School of Music, Emory and Henry College, East Carolina University and has adjudicated at numerous district and regional NATS events and voice competitions.
A versatile performer, Karen has performed in opera, operetta, concert, oratorio, recital, chamber music, and music theater throughout the United States, most notably on the PBS special Masterclass, with the Seattle Opera, Seattle Symphony, Seattle Civic Light Opera, Hidden Valley Opera, and the Victor Herbert Festival Ensemble in Saratoga Springs, NY. She is a five-time Metropolitan Opera Regional Finalist and has won awards from the Texas Federation of Music Clubs, the Vocal Arts Foundation in San Francisco, and the Eleanor Anderson Lieber Awards, sponsored by Portland Opera. Opera roles include Musetta, Susannah, Curley’s Wife, Adele, Papagena, and Serpina. She toured Turkey and Greece with Philips Academy as the soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
Music theater credits include Maria in West Side Story, Nellie in South Pacific, and Aldonza/Dulcinea in Man of La Mancha. She has performed several leading roles with the Loessin Summer Playhouse: First Woman in I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, Vi in Footloose, Domina in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Madame Dubonnet in The Boyfriend.
She has four recordings to her credit: The Frogs and Sweeney Todd both by Stephen Sondheim, American Songs in Recital, a solo CD of American art songs and music theater selections, and the Pulitzer-prize winning recording On the Transmigration of Souls by John Adams, recorded with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
Karen resides in Santa Fe, NM, and is an Adjunct Professor at New Mexico Highlands University. Previously, she served as the Series Editor for "So You Want to Sing: A Guide for Professionals," a series of voice pedagogy books produced in partnership with Roman & Littlefield, Publishers and the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) from 2013-2015. Her book, the first in the series, “So You Want to Sing Music Theater: A Guide for Professionals,” was published in 2014. She also maintains her private studio Songwerks, and continues to research CCM voice pedagogy. Previously, Karen has been a faculty member at the Crane School of Music/SUNY Potsdam, the Boston Conservatory, the Berklee School of Music in Boston, New York University and East Carolina University. During the summer of 2010, Karen was a Visiting Professor at Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand.
Karen’s research and subsequent teaching guide concerning music theater vocal pedagogy has been recognized by the College Music Society, the National Association of Teachers of Singing, the Voice Symposium, and the Texoma NATS Artist Series in the form of invitations to present poster presentations and lectures. In 2011, the Fulbright Organization approved Karen’s application to become a Fulbright Specialist. As a Fulbright Specialist, she will travel to foreign universities to share her research and teaching specialty—contemporary vocal pedagogy.