The Baltimore Sun

A music critic writing in The Sun in 1987 described Karen Goldberg, a self-taught Baltimore acoustic guitarist, this way:

"Her words have the clarity of an ice sculpture made from the clearest spring water and the sharpness of the best Toledo steel," he wrote.

Goldberg, whose audiences clamored for her "jazzy folk" style of singing - in the same vein as Janis Ian and Joni Mitchell, who she freely acknowledges are major influences on her musical style - was a well-known figure in clubs and on area college campuses during the 1970s, 1980s and into the early 1990s.

"It was a different bar every night," Goldberg said with a hearty laugh from her Reisterstown home.

She began playing guitar when she was a 12-year-old growing up in Pikesville.

"My older sister played guitar and told me not to touch it. I just waited for her to go out, and then I'd start playing," Goldberg said.

After graduating from Pikesville High in 1971, she went on to what is now Towson University and earned a degree in physical education in 1975.

What followed wasn't a career in a gym but one singing. Her debut album, The Lion in Me, came out in 1981 and was followed by five more, most recently Treading Water in 1998.

Goldberg branched out and played from Maine to Florida to Michigan. She eventually went as far afield as Europe and Australia.

While not missing the administrative hassles, she does miss being on stage. "I loved that part," she said.

Eventually being on the road and driving her car between dates caught up with her. "I sort of retired in 2000," she said.

Today, she has students who come to her home to learn "electric, acoustic, heavy metal, rock, folk and blues guitar," she said.

"I have lots of kids and some adults. I even had to learn how to play 'Stairway to Heaven' and 'Sweet Home Alabama,' " she said. "I have 40 kids who come to the house each week for 45 minutes. It's like I'm everyone's aunt."

She still performs publicly and will be singing at 1 p.m. next Saturday at Bloomin Artfest, Franklin Middle School, in Reisterstown.

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