About Karen Amrhein

Composer Karen Amrhein has written for orchestra, wind ensemble, chorus, and chamber ensemble.

Her music has been described as "seriously worth investigating for study and public performance.... Succinct in style and scope, it provides the audience a capsulized aroma of mid-twentieth century harmonic idioms as well as some fresh melodic direction.... [and it] leaves the listener wanting more." - The Horn Call

"Amrhein is tonally oriented, lyrical, and composes with an insightful sense of instrumental possibility. She is also a fine contrapuntalist who is equally adept at thinking both vertically and horizontally. Her lines are enlivened by quirky rhythms, and the harmonies that their convergences generate at key points are never less than pleasingly surprising." - William Zagorski, Fanfare Magazine

"Karen is very sensitive to melody, and quite insightful as to the harmonic structure that will best support it. What results is both engaging and intriguing, as well as emotionally satisfying, not infrequently witty, and quite often uplifting - all characteristics and affects that seem regrettably rare in the work of more recent times." - Composer Robert Sirota, President of the Manhattan School of Music and former Director of the Peabody Institute

Among Karen's works are her oratorio The Book of Jonah for soloists, choir, and chamber orchestra; the ballet Little Nemo in Slumberland for wind ensemble / orchestra (inspired by the influential early 20th-C. comic strip by Winsor McCay); Symphony of Seasons for wind ensemble / orchestra - written for and premiered by Harlan Parker and the Peabody Wind Ensemble; five chamber orchestra concertos, including the clarinet concerto Event Horizon, written for and recorded by Richard Stoltzman; six sonatas for soloist and piano; two string quartets and a string trio; a collection of dances for piano entitled "Dance Card"; a series of "story scores" for her novels The Eye of Phoebus, The Tower of Kirklees, and A Season in Prickleblossom Wood, and works for narrator(s) and musical ensemble including Princess Paliné, The Gift of the Magi, and The Christmas Mirror.

Karen is an award-winning member of ASCAP, a recipient of a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award, and has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her music has been performed by ensembles including the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Susquehanna Symphony, the Hewlett-Packard Symphony, the Peabody Wind Ensemble, and the Mariner String Quartet. She has a B.A. in Medieval History from the University of California, San Diego, and is an alumna of the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, Maryland. CDs of her chamber and orchestral music, featuring soloists Richard Stoltzman, Nicholas Currie, Lura Johnson, and Oscar Lopez Plaza, and performed by Kirk Trevor and the Slovak Radio Symphony, the Mariner String Quartet, and others, are available on the Happy Lemon Music Publishing label.

Click List for a full roster of Karen's compositions.
Karen can be reached at

TOP (left to right): composer Robert Sirota, Karen, and Karen's husband Stephen
BOTTOM: Stephen and friend