Karen Rives Kalafatas (aka Karen K) is a former musical theater actress who, following graduation from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, spent much of her 20s in The Big Apple. Later, she put her idealism and communications degree to work at organizations like City Year Inc. (Boston, MA), Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) Kidznotes (Durham, NC), where she was a fundraising and marketing professional specializing in major and annual giving; events; sustainable program, operations and capacity building; corporate and foundation giving; and strategic marketing and communications.
Upon the birth of her daughter, Karen founded Jitterbugs Music Classes™, an early childhood music program for children aged newborn to 5 years whose joy-filled mission included providing access to high-quality music instruction for all families. Jitterbugs ran in Brooklyn, NY and Greater-Boston for 10 years and served over 5,000 children. A prolific songwriter and celebrated performer, Karen also founded and spearheaded the tot-rock group, Karen K & the Jitterbugs, an award-winning rock band for kids and their grown-ups ages zero to 99. Karen continues to perform and work as a teaching artist at organizations across the country including Wheelock Family Theater at Boston University, and has written and produced 4 musicals for children and families.
An arts advocate and leader committed to leveraging arts as a tool for social change, Karen is the recipient of a prestigious Berklee College of Music Urban Service Award for her work in under-served communities and as creator and executive producer of Kids Really Rock™, the largest free all-day family music festival in the country. Focusing on themes of community, inclusivity and creativity, the festival was held in Boston for five years and attracted over 10,000 people annually. She is also a co-founder of Family Music Forward, a collective of award-winning artists whose mission, in an effort to create safer and more welcoming spaces for all children, is to dismantle racism and amplify Black voices in the family music industry.
A native North Carolinian, Karen now resides in Chapel Hill, NC, with her husband John, daughter Becca (the original Jitterbug) and their dog Hewey.
Karen loves connecting with other humans. Say hello or share your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.