THE PATRIOT LEDGER – NAME: Karen Geer
HOMETOWN: Ohio, though she considers Brooklyn, NY to be home.
IN THE NEWS: Geer succeeded Kathy Czerny as president at South Shore Conservatory on June 1. She was chosen following a national search.
NOW YOU KNOW: As of late, she’s been listening to “Vocalise” by Russian-American composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff, published in 1912.
HER STORY: Karen Geer’s father worked for General Electric and growing up, she would move from town to town as his job required. With each move and each new school, she picked up a new instrument in the brass family, starting with the trumpet in fourth grade.
By age 14, she settled on the tuba and went on to become a prodigy at age 17, receiving a full scholarship to Kent State University to study music.
“My immediate goal when I was very young was to be a famous tuba player,” Geer said. “But my tuba teacher convinced me I should keep playing the tuba but also study music education.”
After she graduated with a degree in music education, Greer moved to New York to attend the Manhattan School of Music, where she became the first woman to earn a master’s degree in tuba performance at the school, she said.
For years after, she played tuba and sang professionally around the city in “all kinds of different jobs” which included teaching music and working in a lawyer’s office. She got training through her teacher’s union in negotiation, which led to her decision to apply to law school.
“For four years I taught music during the day and at night went to law school at Fordham University,” she said.
Geer went on to work in environmental law and made the transition back to music, though she never really left it, in 2005.
“It’s been a long, winding road,” she said. “You make plans and God laughs.”
However, the winding path did not lead her astray.
“Even though I don’t practice law every day, I certainly use my legal skills all the time when running an organization,” she said. “It’s extraordinarily helpful.”
Geer says it’s these experiences as teacher, lawyer, negotiator and executive director that have lead her to this point in her career as the new president of SSC, which she calls the most rewarding part yet.
“I love the area, but it was meeting the (SSC) board members, faculty and staff that really convinced me to come here. They’re so passionate about music and music education.”
As a kid, Geer attended music camp in Plymouth and spent a few summers on Cape Cod, so she’s not completely unfamiliar with the area.
She will live in Hull, while her husband and daughter stay in New York until her daughter’s university announces plans for the fall semester.
Geer said her first order of business is ensuring the conservatory will continue to offer music education in a healthy and safe way amid the COVID-19 pandemic and figure out a transition plan to return to in-person programming when it’s safe to do so.
As for long-term goals, she says she wants to create an “innovative model” of community music education that everyone can be proud of.
“Music to me is as essential as food and air. It’s my friend, it comforts me and reminds me of people and past relationships and kindness; kindness that people have bestowed upon me my entire life,” said Geer.
“At my core I’m a musician and it can never be taken away from me. This (new role) is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me. These people are fantastic and I’m grateful.”
By Anastasia E. Lennon