The Wharton Insitute for the Performing Arts announced the passing of their Executive Director Karen Deschere on January 11, 2019.

Wharton Insitute for the Performing Arts released the following statement.  

IN MEMORY Karen Deschere (1956 – 2019)
Karen Deschere came to the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts as Executive Director in January of 2014. Karen arrived with a passion for arts education matched only by her wealth of experience in the field. She served for 8 years as president and chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. Prior to Wisconsin Conservatory, Karen served as executive director for both the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Chorus, adjuncts of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Karen also served as the Managing Director of Education for the Grammy Foundation.

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Karen brought not only her passion and experience to Wharton, she also brought her gentle and gracious way with people. Her demeanor prompted one staff person to write her this note of thanks. “Your calming and compassionate presence, your unquestionable expertise, your compelling vision, your thoughtful approach to management: all of these and more have made your tenure at NJYS one of the best and happiest times in my fifteen years here.”

During Karen’s leadership at Wharton, the organization has grown to serve over 1500 students, from preschoolers to seniors each year. Her initiatives include: expanding the Paterson Music Project to 4 schools; beginning the CAFÉ (Creative Aging for Everyone) outreach program for seniors; adding a Jazz Orchestra and Big Band to the New Jersey Youth Symphony; enhancing our Musical Theater Company and Instrumental Ensemble.

Karen’s work at Wharton has prompted the Board of Trustees to create the Karen Deschere Fund for Excellence. The Fund honors Karen’s life’s work championing musical excellence for the thousands of students she’s served throughout her distinguished career.

The Fund will be used to support merit-based scholarships to our programs, special musical tutoring, purchase and care of musical instruments and ongoing education for teaching artists. If you’d like to donate to the Karen Deschere Fund for Excellence, click here.

Karen often said that music can, and does, “change the world.”

We thank Karen for changing Wharton’s world with her unwavering belief in the power, and the joy of music.