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Meet Karen Amlaw of Karen Amlaw Music in Westborough

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karen Amlaw.

Karen, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.

Music has always been a part of my life. As a young child I was fortunate to have the opportunity to sing with and be a soloist with an acclaimed elementary school chorus. I was the kid who wrote plays, puppet shows, and musicals that she and her neighborhood friends performed in her backyard or at school. At graduation from elementary school I was presented with the Outstanding Musician Award. By middle school I was admitted to the Performing Arts School of Worcester on full scholarship as a violinist and became the singer who had someone anonymously donate money to a scholarship fund specifically earmarked for her to study voice wherever she wanted to as well.  I was the concert mistress of Worcester’s All-City Symphony, was selected for Central District and All-State Orchestras, and had the privilege of singing roles under the direction of Foothills Theater directors including the Witch in Hansel & Gretel and the Baroness in the Sound of Music. With special permission, I also was hired to teach music as part of the local public school’s after-school programs (Permission was required because everyone else involved was a certified educator; they knew I could teach music to kids, so they found a way).

But, believing all the nay-sayers who said I would starve as a musician, after pursuing music, psychology, and personnel management as an undergrad and doing graduate work in elementary education at the University of Rochester / Eastman School of Music, I initially chose to pursue life as an award winning restaurant manager instead. My family hadn’t contributed a cent to my college education because in their eyes (or at least in my mother’s eyes) as a woman I didn’t need to go to college (Don’t ask.  Just know that I knew better . . . and somehow I was going to go regardless).  And thank goodness a variety of scholarships had paid my tuition, but the restaurant industry had helped me pay the rest and I was sure it would continue to support me.

Almost 15 years later I returned to singing in choir as a “hobby” . . . so I thought. But, in less than a month I was being asked to step in as a soloist and the candle of music making as a career was relit. In less than 6 months I knew there was much more to my musical journey than I had thought – that musical candle had just never gone out completely; it was just waiting for me to realize music was my destiny and those naysayers had lied – I could do better than just survive following that path.

I had no idea where the magic musical carpet ride was going to take me, but I was invested in it 200%. I left my restaurant management position and dove back into performing and teaching children’s music. I traveled with my own kids’ music show – Miss Karen & Friends – and taught music wherever I could get invited to do so.

By 2007 Karen Amlaw Music (KAM) found its first permanent home in the back room of Robinson Music, a family-owned music store in Westborough, MA. From that humble home KAM grew to teach piano and summer voice programs to some 100 students a year and provide bi-annual performance opportunities for young musicians from KAM and beyond. KAM was alive and well and the only way to grow further would be to officially become a music school with other teachers involved – I had returned to the music industry for sure, I now knew those naysayers were totally wrong and I vowed I would never leave the industry again.

In Dec. 2015 KAM’s wonderful relationship with that family business came to an end when a national chain bought the store.  Everyone always knew someday I would operate some kind of community arts center, music school, or the like . . . it was only the details that were in question.  After a month or so of renovations, on February 1st, 2016, KAM officially grand-reopened in Downtown Crossing – 57 East Main Street, Suite 203 in Westborough, MA – where, I am proud to say, 100% percent of my students followed me.

Over the past two years KAM has added four more teachers which has allowed us to expand our offerings to include private lessons in bass guitar, guitar, piano, ukulele, violin, and voice, as well as semi-private lessons and group classes like Kids on Keys for 4 – 8 year olds and Intro to Singing for 2nd – 5th graders. Eventually we’ll have more, but I just have to find the right people . . . at KAM we seek to Discover the Fun through music making . . . our teachers must believe in that and be able to teach all ages (especially children).

Every day I continue to hang onto that magic musical carpet that has taken me so much further than I ever imagined . . . When time allows I’m still performing both locally and in NYC.  As we add more instructors to our team I hope to be able to perform even more.
Last Summer I was selected as the first-alternate for Connecticut Opera’s National American Opera Idol Competition; I have also been a semi-finalist in the acclaimed American Prize Competition multiple times.  And last fall I sang the Mother in Longwood Opera’s production of Humperdinck’s Hansel & Gretel.  For the past ten years I’ve been invited to adjudicate the annual vocal competition for Music Worcester (formerly Opera Worcester) . . . all while keeping KAM alive and well.

My team at KAM and I love sharing music through performing and education. Our over 100 cumulative years of experience in the industry as performers and educators leaves the door open for a multitude of possibilities . . . Many of our students know the above story and as a result know the importance and power of believing in a dream . . . Can’t wait to see what we at KAM can do next!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The path to success is always a journey.   Continuously planning, assessing and reevaluating what KAM is about has brought us to where we are today and will continue to help us grow.

The only version of NO that I’ve ever understood is the four-letter one that begins with a “K” and ends with a “W” – Knowledge is power; know what you want and find a way to make it happen.  Sometimes you might take a little detour (ok, maybe a big detour), but if it’s meant to be then the carpet ride of life will take you there and make it so.

Through it all one just has to always BELIEVE and never underestimate the power of YET!  The power of attraction is an awesome thing.  No matter what anyone says or does if you build your dreams they can happen.  It’s never one can’t do or understand something – but rather, one can’t do or understand it YET.  And lastly – Enjoy the magic carpet ride . . . you never know how far or where it will take you!

Karen Amlaw Music – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Since 2005, Karen Amlaw Music (KAM) has been offering quality music instruction to students from MetroWest and beyond. Proud to have been voted the area’s Most Loved Music Lessons for the past two consecutive years by Hulafrog subscribers and nominated one of Baystate Parents Magazine’s top Music Schools for 2018, KAM’s team currently has offerings for young musicians as well as the young at heart – age 4 to adult – in bass, guitar, piano, ukulele, violin, and voice.  In addition to private lessons KAM offers Kids on Keys for 4 – 8 year olds and Intro. to Singing with age appropriate music for 2nd through 5th graders.  Don’t see what you’re looking for?  Check back, we’re always growing . . . so you never know.

KAM’s over 120 students include multiple young artist competition winners, district and all-state musicians, members of music theater and opera casts, and more. You’re never too young or too old to Discover the Fun (of music)!

KAM’s instructors have over 100 combined years of experience in the industry as both performers and music educators. Music making is their passion – they take pride in passing on such joys to their students. They are frequently sought after to adjudicate festivals and scholarship / young artist competitions throughout the state and have performed throughout the world in venues from local sporting events to Symphony Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and more – often sharing the stage with nationally and internationally acclaimed artists.

Dedicated to supporting the best musical experience, in every studio KAM students have the opportunity to learn on regularly maintained pianos from some of the best makers in the world including Steinway, Mason & Hamlin, and a beautiful fully rebuilt Ivers & Pond baby grand.

A proud supporter of the arts and education in central MA, KAM sponsors top prizes in the piano and vocal categories for Worcester Schubertiade’s Annual Classical Idol Competition for high school and college students, as well as supports the Westborough Fine Arts Education Association and several other school programs in neighboring towns.

KAM frequently participates in local kids’ fairs and festivals as well.  This past spring you could find us at Baystate Parents’ Kids Con and supporting Westborough’s Spring Festival as a Bronze sponsor, for example.

Both our students and members of the community at large have opportunities to share in musical fun throughout the year in recitals, community showcases, and the like held in KAM’s own recital room, as well as at other community events which KAM sponsors.  Giving back to our community is part of KAM’s ongoing mission.

If it’s not obvious already, KAM is not your average music school.  Festively decorated through the year, visitors, students, and parents alike frequently describe the ambiance as homey.  It is not unusual for the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, or who knows who else to stop by for a visit as part of the musical fun!

KAM is proud to share a few recent celebrations (For more up-to-date KAM musician performances and / or celebrations see our website):

From our piano studios: In 2017 KAM sent 10 young musicians to the Young Artist Piano Competition at Westfield University, 5 of whom placed and brought home trophies (One of them placed 1st in his division for the second year in a row). This past April we sent 27 pianists and 11 of them came home as top prize winners (4 of them for the second consecutive year).

A student who began her musical journey in our Kids on Keys group piano program recently made her debut on the Hook Organ at Mechanics Hall at the age of 11.
From our voice studios: Over the past 2 years 100% of our junior and senior high voice students who’ve auditioned for districts have been accepted, 100% of our high school singers have received all-state recommendations, and this year our freshman alto was accepted into all-state! Since we just added strings to our offerings this fall all of our string students aren’t old enough for districts yet, but they will be soon.

Our most senior student sings with the Assabet Valley Mastersingers and this past fall was a member of the cast of Worcester Schubertiade’s production of Lehar’s The Merry Widow along side his voice teacher who is a member of our KAM team.

To find out more about how to Discover the Fun at KAM contact us

Via website: www.karenamlaw.com/karenamlawmusic.html

Via Facebook: www.facebook.com/KarenAmlawMusic

Via email: karen.amlaw.music@aol.com

Via phone: (508) 366-6000

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success can be attained on many levels just as goals can range greatly in size. Sometimes smaller goals can be easily attained; rather immediately while other goals may take multiple attempts to get there. Generally speaking, the path to success is never a straight nor final one . . . one usually takes a few detours along the way before finding success with one goal only to have that goal become a starting point for another bigger and better one . . . and so proceeds the process of continuous improvement.

As a musician success could range from learning a few difficult measures of music in a new piece to learning an entire concerto or organizing a concert series or music festival – Achieving the later entailing many smaller successes along the way. This is a concept many of our students discover as they are learning to play their musical instrument. One usually can’t just sit down and play a new piece from start to finish . . . you probably have to figure out which parts you need to work on, specifically practice those slowly, and then put the piece together.

Determined musician, writer, scholar, educator, organizer, leader, go-getter, crazy cat lady . . . I’d say that has always essentially summed up my life.

Outside of music I’ve worn (and continue to wear) many hats along the way . . . science scholar, journalist, marketing representative, restaurant manager, cat rescuer – to name a few. Even as a kid life was never boring . . . I was always the teacher’s assistant, mentor for others, group leader, local essay contest winner, school newspaper reporter, yearbook editor, science fair award winner, class officer, etc. And many of the qualities required to wear all those hats successfully have enhanced my direction and operation of KAM.

I’m a life-long learner who has always desired to be the best at whatever is at hand and sought to share her knowledge with others so that they too can grow. How else could the daughter of a truly blue-collar family who thought that a woman was supposed to go out and find a husband so that she could just stay at home with the kids and cook and sew actually go out and be somebody?

As a first-generation college graduate, I owe a great deal of gratitude to the many school teachers and community folks I have encountered along the way who showed me I could be more in life, encouraged me to do so, and helped me make it happen. As an educator and community member I try my best to do the same for those whose lives I touch every day at KAM and otherwise. – Always looking for ways to help others succeed at their goals along the way.

What were you like growing up? Personality wise, interest wise, etc.
Determined musician, writer, scholar, educator, organizer, leader, go-getter, crazy cat lady . . . I’d say that has always essentially summed up my life.

Outside of music I’ve worn (and continue to wear) many hats along the way . . . science scholar, journalist, marketing representative, restaurant manager, cat rescuer – to name a few.  Even as a kid life was never boring . . . I was always the teacher’s assistant, mentor for others, group leader, local essay contest winner, school newspaper reporter, yearbook editor, science fair award winner, class officer, etc.  And many of the qualities required to wear all those hats successfully have enhanced my direction and operation of KAM.

I’m a life-long learner who has always desired to be the best at whatever is at hand and sought to share her knowledge with others so that they too can grow.  How else could the daughter of a truly blue-collar family who thought that a woman was supposed to go out and find a husband so that she could just stay at home with the kids and cook and sew actually go out and be somebody?

As a first-generation college graduate, I owe a great deal of gratitude to the many school teachers and community folks I have encountered along the way who showed me I could be more in life, encouraged me to do so, and helped me make it happen.  As an educator and community member I try my best to do the same for those whose lives I touch every day at KAM and otherwise.

 

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
David Moulton Photography

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