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Karen Marguth

Born in Minneapolis, raised in the San Francisco East Bay, Karen has been active as a performer throughout her life. Her professional background includes choreographing, directing, and performing in regional theatres and touring shows, singing in rock, blues, and jazz bands, doing voice-overs and studio work, and teaching dance and theatre with children and adults. She enjoys performing a wide variety of styles of music, being drawn primarily by lyrics, she says. “Any song that has unexpected, interesting, or simply profound lyrics draws my attention. It is the storytelling part of singing that I love best.”

Karen has also worked as an educator since 1986, working as a classroom teacher in public elementary and middle schools, as an instructor for pre-service teachers at CSU Hayward, as a private consultant in school districts throughout California and for the UC Berkeley Writing Project. Her classroom methods have been the subject of two national research studies, and she received San Joaquin County’s CTA Outstanding New Educator Award in 1990. Currently, she is serving Central Unified Schools as an Instructional Support Coach for the Arts and Writing.

“Music, theatre and education merge quite logically for me,” Karen says. “Teaching and singing are both performance arts, the goal being to convey to the audience what’s important in the lesson or the song.”

In 1999, when she moved to Central California, Karen began to seek out opportunities to meet and work with local musicians. Happily, with jazz stations like KFSR and organizations like Jazz Fresno, she found it easy to find out about local musical events. By 2001, the Blue Street Jazz Band had started using her as a substitute vocalist, and that’s when her work in jazz performance began to blossom. Blue Street performs around the country at Jazz Festivals, and Karen soaked in all she could by listening to and talking with musicians and audience members at the festivals. People would recommend vocalists for her to study, and study she did. Though she still considers herself to be “low on the learning curve” about jazz, she has embraced jazz’s call to free oneself from the goal of creating “perfect” performances. Rather, jazz demands that an artist who is grounded in the structures of music theory let go and play with the music to create something new.

In 2008, Karen suggested to KFSR’s station manager, Joe Moore, that it might be fun to create a show focused on female vocalists. He agreed, and KFSR’s Vocal Hour was born, which airs every Friday at 2pm Pacific Time.

In 2010, she released her eponymous album which received critical acclaim from European and American jazz writers, and she began performing more often, including at festivals in France and at southern California venues such as Dizzy’s San Diego, Catalina’s, and Charlie O’s.

Her 2013 release, “A Way With Words,” is a two-disk set which is a tribute to the songs of Carroll Coates, and features Richie Cole and Gilbert Castellanos.

Her goals are to continue to grow as a vocalist, to travel and perform as much as her day-job will allow, and start working on her next recording project.

“Great big talent, much too small a pond. Her name is Karen Marguth, one of the finest American jazz vocalists you’ve likely yet to discover.”

– Christopher Loudon, Jazz Times

“Just You, Just Me is Karen’s newest and perhaps most courageous work…to go into the world with just an acoustic bass man – the redoubtable Kevin Hill – at her side.”

– John McDonough, NPR