Karen DiSanto


Karen DiSanto happily joined the ARTZ team as the organization’s part-time administrator in September 2023. She is a classically trained clarinetist with a master’s degree in Performance from Temple University; an educator; and a non-profit arts administrator/fundraiser with over 35 years of experience in the field. Most recently, Karen served as the executive director for Philly-based Network for New Music. Her career paths to date have involved working with people of all ages, backgrounds, and levels of ability – an aspect of her work that she has always enjoyed and celebrated.

Karen’s first “up-close” experience with Alzheimer’s began well over 25 years ago with an early onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis for her husband’s dear aunt. While completely aware of the power of music to impact lives, Karen was especially struck by a family visit, years into this aunt’s diagnosis, where singing around the piano was taking place, and how this seemingly despondent aunt sprung to life from her wheelchair and joined in with some words, much laughter and smiles – her face radiated joy and while we knew she was still with us, we were all so moved that she was able to express it outwardly that day! Years later, Karen experienced her own mother’s Alzheimer’s journey, albeit long-distance with as many visits as possible, and always made sure music was a part of every visit. When apart, she took great comfort in knowing that when a CD she had recorded of Mozart’s sublime clarinet quintet was played by her sister for her mother, her mother’s entire countenance would change from indifference or irritation, to contentedness and peacefulness, especially near the end of her life; through music, Karen could impact the quality of her mother’s life, and connect with her, even at a distance.

After her mother’s death in 2019 Karen felt a strong calling to seek out ways in which she could provide this same kind of connection with music for others, to touch them, and bring comfort and joy to their lives. Her search ultimately led to ARTZ and Susan Shifrin. Their first meeting was exhilarating, so much so, that it would ultimately change Karen’s career-path – she is thrilled to now be part of the ARTZ team, helping to facilitate “joyful interactions surrounding arts and culture” for those living with dementia and their care partners!

Photograph of Karen DiSanto