Karen Dunstan



Karen has been with the band for 21 years.
She sings and plays mandolin, guitar, autoharp and lap dulcimer.
She also plays the castanets, which she learned in Spain, and other hand-held percussion,
including the spoons, tambourine, shakers, washboard, sand blocks and djembe.

MUSIC BIO OF KAREN DUNSTAN - Karen Dunstan was born in Pensacola, Florida in the early fifties to a Navy family and during her first 18 years she moved around the world several times. Most of her grade school years were spent in Presque Isle, Maine where her parents and grandparents were from. She was influenced in music by her close family, especially her grandfather who loved to listen to records and live music. He was a professional drummer before he became a potato farmer; He also played the spoons, which no doubt influenced Karen's proficiency on this instrument.

Her Uncle Peter (his son) played the guitar. Karen became interested in playing guitar after she was given her Uncle Peter's guitar. It was a small body Hawaiian guitar that had bright tropical pictures on it, and it had been refinished to the natural wood underneath at some point during its life. Her Uncle Peter played folk music, and that greatly influenced the direction in music that Karen followed. She began with playing Peter Paul and Mary songs and even Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, and Credence Clearwater Revival were in her repertoire.

Karen's family moved to Spain for a couple of years, living in Seville and Madrid, and it was there as a young girl that she learned to play the castanets, which she has mastered. The castanets are hand-held percussion used to evoke a lively music atmosphere. When Karen was in the 9th grade, her family moved to Guam in the Pacific for 5 years. There she played guitar at the folk Mass every Sunday with two other guys. She joined a children's choir and practiced faithfully every week.

During her married years she focused her energy on work and raising a family and did not have much time left for playing music. There was about a 15 year lapse until she heard The Lehigh Valley Folk Music Society perform at a coffee house in Allentown one evening in the mid 90s. She asked to join the band and has been playing with the Society band ever since then. In addition to the 60s folk music, Karen is particularly fond of the old time music and especially the Carter Family music and along the way she learned to play the autoharp and the Appalachian dulcimer and add her voice to the melodies. She enjoys singing lead and adding the high harmony voice in the band.

Karen also had a fond interest in the mandolin, and purchased an old Gibson A-style mandolin in the 90s after joining the band, which she taught herself to play practicing endlessly. She has become a very proficient folk mandolinist for the Society band.

Karen's proficiency in folk music is also reflected in her songwriting skills. She wrote and performed two original songs for the "Garlic and Angels" album in 2006. One of the songs, Look to the West, is a heartfelt melody with lyrics that tell of her grandparents inspiring tale of sailing off from Ireland and immigrating to America. Her other song, My Life with a Rose, is a humorous song that joyfully talks about life experiences of eating garlic.

Karen currently lives in Alburtis, Pa. with her husband Len.