Be the Change: Karen Severson – Instilling A Love For Music


Karen Severson, piano teacher and church musician in Redding, understands the truth of the Anthony Robbins quote below. “It’s important to think outside the box when teaching piano,” she says. “All students learn differently. I attempt to find a way to fit each student.” Karen learns about her students through observation, asking questions, and watching how they approach their lesson. She helps them progress whether they are new to piano or have taken lessons before.

Karen’s interest in music started early. When she was 3 years old, she was given a toy piano. She played and “composed” on it. At age 7 she began formal lessons and continued until she graduated from college. “Playing piano is just something I always wanted to do,” she says.

In seventh grade, Karen began accompanying the school choir. She continued as a choir accompanist though high school and served as the rehearsal pianist for musical productions. Currently she is one of the musicians at First Christian Church in Redding.

Recently she composed a choral anthem titled “Believe in God” to honor Rev. Heather Hennessey at her retirement as senior pastor of the church.

The beauty of the composition brought many to tears. “Karen is one of those people who have a feel for music,” says Ellis Martin, a retired minister and member of the church choir. “When she plays, her heart is in it. You get a sense of what the composer was attempting to convey.”

art-0513-btc2After graduating from high school, Karen attended Monterey Peninsula College where she met and studied with Camille Olaeta, who became her favorite piano teacher. Camille encouraged and inspired Karen to become the teacher she is today. While at the community college, she received several small scholarships to further her education, which she did at California State University, Hayward (now California State University, East Bay) where she received her Bachelor of Arts in music.

From the time she was 16, Karen took part-time jobs to assist with expenses and support her music. A favorite was in a high-end restaurant in Carmel where her mother worked. “I liked the job because we had a cultured  clientele, and I got to dress up and eat delicious food!” she revealed. It was at the restaurant that she met her husband John, who worked as a bus boy. “We had attended the same high school but didn’t really know each other,” says Karen. She and John married between her junior and senior year in college.

John accepted a position as a patrol officer with the Redding Police Department, and they moved to the community in 1980. They have two sons, Reed and Trent. Reed graduated from California State University, Chico with a degree in music/recording arts, and Trent from University of California, Berkeley with degrees in music and German.

[sws_pullquote_left] “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” – Attributed to Anthony Robbins [/sws_pullquote_left] While their sons were young, Karen worked in a tax and accounting office. She also accompanied voice students on the piano, and 1996, she began teaching piano lessons. “I wanted to bring something different to the music community,” she says. Serendipitously, she discovered a philosophy called Music Logic that originated in Australia. “What I loved about it is that it is a fresh way of looking at music while being compatible with traditional teaching.” Using Music Logic has become Karen’s trademark as a piano teacher.

During her 17 years of teaching, Karen has taught over 500 students. One student, 16-year-old Abby, appreciates what she has learned during her eight years of studying with Karen. “She explains things in different ways from how you would normally explain them,” Abby says. “Also, she makes sure I have lots of opportunities to move forward with my music.”

Doreen Olson, mother of three children who have taken lessons with Karen, says, “I tell people all the time that if you want to get your student up and running quickly, take him to Karen.  She is positive and knowledgeable, firm yet friendly.”

When Karen isn’t teaching or accompanying, she likes traveling, going out to lunch with friends, and remodeling and redecorating her family’s home. “Family, friends, and music are what I enjoy,” she says. “There is never quite enough time to fit in all I want to do.”

Karen Severson can be reached at (530) 246-3891. 

[sws_blue_box box_size=”580″]The mission of our Be the Change column is to feature a community member from the North State who is actively making a difference in the lives of children and families. If you would like to nominate someone who is making a difference, please write to[/sws_blue_box]

Carolyn Warnemuende
About Carolyn Warnemuende

Author Carolyn Warnemuende has two daughters and five grandchildren, and lives with her husband in Redding. She writes parenting and educational articles, sponsors a school in Uganda, and visits Africa twice a year. She receives great joy in taking daily care of her four-year-old granddaughter who was adopted from Ethiopia.

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