With more than 30 years of experience working with not-for-profit and for-profit organizations, Karen Geer is a versatile executive, educator, trained musician, and lawyer – with a track record of success in increasing earned and unearned revenues, implementing extensive cost-savings strategies; garnering significant media attention; and building a loyal community of stakeholders.
Karen was the Executive Director of the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music (BCM) for over 5 years. During that time, Karen Geer reinvigorated the community music school which serves more than 15,000 individuals annually through music education, music therapy, and music performances in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan. With excellence at the core of Karen’s strategic vision for the school, she launched savvy new programming with Grammy winners; established a public presence through large-scale community events and concerts with audiences of one thousand; and hosted first-time cultivation events to develop corporate partnerships and support.
During Karen’s five-year tenure, the Conservatory generated surpluses in its operating budget which hadn’t happened in more than a decade. Evidence of her success is most recently noted in the increase in corporate and individual support for the three Conservatory Galas in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Thanks to expanded outreach to public officials, Karen increased government giving by 120%. High-profile funders have taken notice, such as The Amy Winehouse Foundation which selected BCM as one of only two grant recipients across the nation. Media attention was secured through features in The New York Times and The Rolling Stone.
Prior to BCM, Karen served as Interim Executive Director of Opus 118 Harlem School of Music – the Harlem-based violin program made famous by Meryl Streep in Music of the Heart. Karen began her time at Opus 118 Harlem School of Music as Director of Programs, where she assumed roles of increasing responsibility. Under her leadership, Karen used the successful violin program as a model for after-school programming in piano, guitar, viola, cello, and voice. She also was instrumental in design and development of the Music Within preschool program and the Harlem Youth Chorus. Through collaboration with Columbia University, Karen developed the Community Programs Initiative, the earned revenue programming arm of Opus 118 that nearly doubled program outreach and developed partnerships with organizations that included the Association to Benefit Children and Harlem Children’s Zone.
While a champion of music education, Karen secured performances for the performing ensembles at Opus 118 including a partnership with the Netherlands Community Trust at Carnegie Hall and at the Children’s Inaugural Ball in Washington, DC. She also contributed to the re-branding and successful communications efforts of the Harlem institution and its features on NBC Nightly News, the CBS Early Show, and many other major musical events.
Before joining Opus 118, Karen was a lawyer at Harris Beach LLP where she was National and Regional Counsel to major medical device and nutraceutical companies. Karen managed a team of lawyers that handled lawsuits nationwide in federal court. Karen obtained her law degree from Fordham University School of Law, and an L.L.M. in Environmental Law from Pace University School of Law.
Before practicing law, Karen began her career in music education. Karen was a music teacher at the Ethical Cultural School in Manhattan and taught general, vocal, and instrumental music. Karen also led all school-wide assemblies including the Holiday Assembly, various musicals, and graduation ceremonies. Karen also taught Music and Movement for preschool children at the renowned Diller Quaile School of Music. Karen has taught in a variety of settings including “family music” at Caldwell College in New Jersey; singing and song leading at Pinewoods Music Camp in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Karen also received her Orff certification from the Bloomingdale House of Music and attended workshops in Austria and England for Orff teaching certification.
Karen received her undergraduate degree in Music Education from Kent State University and her Masters Degree from the Manhattan School of Music, where she studied tuba performance. Karen was soloist at the Brooklyn First Unitarian Church for over twenty years. She has performed with the Canton Symphony, Akron Symphony, Cleveland Women’s Orchestra, Kent Opera Theatre, The Opera Ensemble of New York, The Brooklyn Lyric Opera Company and was a regular performer with the Beekman Hill Recital Series in Manhattan.