Karen grew up singing – her first solo was at age 2 in church! Her whole family sang and music has always been a major part of her life. She started directing the children’s choir at church at age 12, played clarinet (and helped direct the high school band), and taught piano lessons (for 50 cents an hour!) during high school and college. Karen received her undergraduate degree in Music Education in 1968 from Glenville State College, and her MM in Choral Conducting and Vocal Pedagogy from Southern Illinois University.
Her first real choral group was in college, with Albert Ryyken Johnson, who Karen says “taught me everything I know about singing”. While in Glenville, West Virginia, Karen wrote and taught the vocal music education program in the county school system – starting out with only 11 autoharps and 12 dozen flutaphones (think recorders!). By year two, she had sent five singers to the All State Chorus. Before starting her master’s degree, she taught music at St. Francis College, where she also directed the choir. While working as a graduate assistant, Karen taught voice class, had a voice studio, and taught music fundamentals for non-music majors as well as elementary music. Karen was the soprano section leader at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where she sang for 8 years. She retired 12 years ago from the Kate B Reynolds Charitable Trust, where she was Director of Administration, and currently serves on a review board at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital. She and her husband Bill have been married for over 51 years, have two sons, Matthew and Jonathan, and 5 grandchildren.
Karen first joined PCS in 1995 and sang until the fall of 2003. She then dropped out for a few years, but served on the board off and on during that time. She rejoined PCS last year and is currently board Secretary. She has served on the board several times, starting out first as a choir representative before becoming a regular board member and then board president. Karen also sings with the Winston-Salem Symphony Chorus and is the soprano section leader. When asked about the importance of community music Karen said, “Community music is crucial to a full, well-rounded life. Whether you are a musician or a listener, music can lift your spirits and enrich your soul. Singing is something almost anyone can do. Also, we need younger people to learn how to participate in the arts. They are the future of music and the other arts in our community. So many people can participate in music, and it is something we can carry with us throughout our lives. I have heard people say that they moved to Winston-Salem because of all the arts in town – museums, art galleries, the symphony, choral groups, etc. Music provides the color in one’s life”.
Her favorite piece from our upcoming Portraits of Winter program is “Wintertide”, a Norwegian folk song. “It speaks of warmth, comfort, safety, peace, and hope for the future. It’s something we all need, especially now.” One of her favorite Christmas pieces of all time is the “Christmas Oratorio” by Camille Saint-Saens. She has sung the soprano solos in the piece and would love to have the opportunity to sing them again in the future. Karen is looking forward to the rest of our 42nd season, and is “really pleased that we have new, younger singers in PCS now. Jayson Snipes, our managing artistic director, is a major asset for PCS. He’s energetic, talented and has great programming ideas.” She is also thankful for “our dynamic, hardworking board members” for taking chances on new ideas this season with complimentary admission, our new fundraising event in February 2020, and securing sponsorship for our season. “They are an amazing group of people!”