a journey of awesome!
Built like a string bean and precocious as all get out, Kara began her musical journey at the early age of seven. The family farm in Southeast Iowa was where Kara's mom Pam taught her the basics on their garage sale piano. Piano lessons were quickly in order.
Her commitment to sensitive and serious study ushered Kara off of the farm. She focused on vocal music in college, majoring in classical voice as well as singing with jazz and show choir ensembles at the University of Iowa. Yet all the while she maintained her love affair with the piano, performing both classical and pop keys at every opportunity. Nearing the end of school her tastes matured as she discovered great jazz vocalists like Carmen McCrae and Abbey Lincoln. This period of burgeoning passions also saw Kara collaborate with prolific classical, jazz, and rock bassist Patrick Williams.
Kara and Patrick blossomed among the eclectic community of musicians in their chosen home base of metropolitan Chicago. Saying goodbye to what felt like a much slower lifestyle in Iowa, Kara eagerly threw herself into many genres of music in the theater improv, jazz, and pop scene.
As Chicago boasts what is arguably one of America’s greatest creative theatre scenes, Kara extended her talents to musicals. She appeared in Tony & Tina’s Wedding, Flanagan’s Wake, and travelled with the hilarious educational theatre troupe Wavelength.
20 years of touring with Wavelength brought such joy to teachers, administrators and staff. In those years, Kara composed and accompanied the one woman Wavelength show Faculty Lounge, co-wrote the cabaret Musical Staff with Brendan Kelly and toured around the country well as Guam and Singapore performing for educators.
Most notably, Kara understudied and played keyboards in Broadway in Chicago’s long-running production of the Tony award-winning smash hit Jersey Boys. She was part of the Tour 2 Broadway Jersey Boys show for three seasons and still holds those musical experiences as a highlight of her career, touring the United States, Canada and Japan.
On the Chicago theater scene, she has played in the pit of Broadway tours such as Waitress, A Bronx Tale and Grinch.
Kara had the opportunity to join the Chicago Shakespeare theater pit at Navy Pier on the iconic and critically acclaimed production of Wizard of Oz. Kara made her debut at Marriott Lincolnshire theater in 2020 on Princess and the Pea.
Kara was thrilled to have the Music Director credit on the new work written by Debra Barsha & Hollye Levin, "A Taste of Things to Come" at Chicago Broadway Playhouse playing keys and conducting an all female cast and band.
Kara's vocal arrangements can be heard with America’s hottest vocal group Under the Streetlamp. The feel-good quartet captured the hearts of audiences across the nation with their breakout concert special on PBS. Catch Streetlamp rocking your favorite hits from the American Radio Songbook on tour in a city near you or on your local PBS station. Kara has fond memories of touring with their concert series.
Kara's discography of professional recordings include, If I Should Lose You, a jazz album featuring some of Chicago’s finest players, and singing in a quirky band called Whipstitch. She collaborated with guitarist Scott Anderson as the Brazilian and world music the duo formed Nova Bossa, whose CD Sonho Meu came out in limited release.
The Grandma Project was a traditional country gospel album tribute dedicated to her grandmother Helen Kesselring.
Children's album Callin' All Kids was a collaboration with Laurie Empen. Kara spent years as a member of Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music teaching piano, voice, vocal jazz, and a very special class called Wiggleworms, which cultivates musical discovery in toddlers.
After logging some years and plenty of miles along her musical journey, Kara found herself longing for the simplicity of her roots. She turned her songwriting inward to reflect the effortless and idiosyncratic mystique of musical heroes like Lyle Lovett, John Prine, Paul Thorn, and Joni Mitchell. The calling to resurrect her heritage compelled Kara to form the homespun country/folk group Sugarcreek Road. Sugarcreek Road blends a modern potpourri of folk, country, bluegrass, and gospel to create a sound that is as raw and compelling as America itself. Catch their authentic approach to Americana throughout the Chicago music scene at venues such as Martyr’s, Mayne Stage, Uncommon Ground, Chicago Folk & Roots Festival, and more.
Kara released her original debut album in 2016 called Hurry Up and Relax comprised of story songs of country, folk, Americana music with her original band, Sugarcreek Road. The CD release concert was held at Old Town School of Folk Music and Metropolis Theater in Arlington Heights.
Music education has been a strength of Kara's as she has continued to teach private piano, flute and voice from her Brookfield home, as well as Old Town School of Folk Music, York High School in Elmhurst, IL and Joan's Studio for the Performing Arts in Hyde Park over the past 20 years.
Kara has accompanied choirs and musicals at York High School, Riverside Brookfield High School, Morton West High School, Morton East High School. She feels strongly about arts in the public schools and continues use her talents to help.
Kara found a great fit in the celebrated society band The Standing Room Only Orchestra in which she is the CEO of the successful company. She manages and band leads the hottest dance band in Chicago, playing keys, singing, and emceeing for weddings and corporate events. Standing Room Only has been nationally ranked in Modern Bride Magazine’s “150 Hottest Bands”, Best of Bands with The Knot & Wedding Wire for years in a row.
You can follow all Kara’s past adventures in music and motherhood on her blog, Playing, Singing Mama.