Karen Mari

Community Engagement Manager

Trombonist, educator, and administrator Karen Mari has long been a part of the Chicago youth music community. She is a proud alum of CYSO’s Concert Orchestra and has fond memories of rehearsing in 833, performing education concerts in the Chicago Cultural Center, and schlepping her instrument on the Metra every weekend.

Karen earned a degree in music education from Indiana University, where she played a lot of trombone, visited a lot of classrooms, and drank a lot of coffee. She completed her student teaching at Roosevelt High School in Albany Park and spent a year as a K-8 general music teacher in East Chicago, Indiana. Before starting at CYSO, Karen worked as an administrator and faculty member at the Merit School of Music. She relies on her knowledge of education every day and continues to find joy in teaching.

Karen joined the CYSO staff in 2019 and oversees our school-based programs, including direct-instruction partnerships in three CPS elementary schools and counting! Karen coordinates CYSO’s education concert and Ambassadors programs, introducing live classical music to thousands of CPS students each year. She keeps CYSO connected with other youth music organizations and guides students and families exploring their musical opportunities in Chicago and beyond.

Outside of music, Karen enjoys drinking home-roasted coffee with her wife (Annaeka), birding at Montrose Point, and watching Star Trek for the zillionth time.

What is your favorite musical memory from when you were young?

I’m grateful every day for my upbringing in a musical church. I cherish the time I’ve spent in the pews with my sister, mother, and grandmother singing familiar hymns in harmony! I have always attributed my love of music to the formative experience of congregational singing.

Fun fact about you that might surprise people

I’m a pottery student at Lillstreet Art Center in Ravenswood. It’s super messy!

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