Karen studied music at Newton Park University (now Bath Spa University), Welsh College of Music and Drama and Guildhall School of Music. She became the British Virtuoso Accordion Champion in 1981-82 and competed in the Coupe Mondiale (World Championship) in Hamburg and Folkstone. She is now a freelance musician and her wide-ranging skills (she plays saxophone also) means that she has a diverse career encompassing classical, contemporary and jazz.
On the UK jazz scene Karen has created a niche for herself on the accordion. She has been a regular member of Mike Westbrook's projects for many years and has worked with Tim Garland, Phil Robson, Steve Arguelles, Tina May, Nikki Iles and Martin Taylor’s Spirit of Django with Guy Barker’s jazz orchestra . A recent highlight was playing at Ronnie Scotts in Maria Schneider’s Big Band.
As a classical player Karen has worked with Welsh National Opera, Ballet Rambert, Opera North, BBC Philharmonic, the RPO, the LSO, the Matrix Ensemble, Chroma ensemble, Glyndbourne Opera, Royal Opera House and Royal Shakespeare Company. Other credits include Grace Jones, Ute Lemper, Martha Lewis, Andrea Bocelli and the Strictly Come Dancing touring band.
Karen’s debut CD Finally a beginning 2001 (consisting of original compositions) received great reviews and her reputation as a jazz accordionist and composer was firmly established with her second CD, Accordion Crimes, featuring Stan Sulzmann, Fred T Baker and Mike Outram. Her current jazz quartet is called Streetworks and she recently formed a Tango ensemble, Càrismatico.
As a saxophone player she was a member of the all girl saxophone quartet The Fairer Sax who appeared on television and radio and at festivals all over the world. This led to a commission from Boosey and Hawkes to write educational music for the saxophone. Karen also has publications with June Emerson and Saxtet Publications and her pieces often appear on exam syllabuses in the UK.