Karen Shipp was born in Norfolk, Virginia, and, as the daughter of a Baptist preacher, grew up in the church. Since the age of six, when she began piano lessons, music has been an important—even crucial—part of her life. In 1976 she graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Music in Applied Organ. Four years later, she completed her Master of Music degree in Organ Performance at University of Kentucky—and promptly moved to New York City to study singing and perform as an opera singer. Meanwhile, she continued to work in the church as organist and/or choir director in a variety of settings; among them, Dutch Reformed, American Baptist, Catholic, and Episcopal churches. She studied singing with Mahon Bishop and sang opera and concerts; she taught, both as an adjunct professor in the music department of Kean College and privately as a voice teacher.
After 21 years of living and working as a musician in NYC, in 2001 Karen accepted the position of Minister of Music at Oakhurst. The wide range of musical styles and traditions that she has been privileged to experience in her life so far has enriched her understanding of her work as church musician and world citizen. Diversity of music, including classical, gospel, and world music, is one of her great loves—and Oakhurst provides ample opportunity for exploring and learning even more about the various ways human beings around the world express themselves through notes and rhythms.