Project HOME for the Holidays
Her fellow residents at Project HOME call her “the Maestro.” And when you hear Karen Benedetti’s piano playing, you’ll know that the name fits.
For over 10 years, both Karen and her music have graced the Project HOME community. Every day, she sits at her shiny personal upright piano in the 1515 community room and plays her amazing music – jazz, pop, oldies, a touch of classical – impressing all who hear her.
A native of upstate New York who has lived in Philadelphia most of her life, Karen remembers at the age of four being enchanted by her uncle playing the piano – “I couldn’t believe anything could be so beautiful,” she says. Because her family couldn’t afford a piano, she first learned music on the accordion. She finally started teaching herself piano in the seventh grade, initially learning by ear. She studied the instrument for years, including a undergraduate degree in music from West Virginian Wesleyan University. Over the years she performed with various bands, ranging from rock bands to folks groups, even playing with a Grateful Dead cover band. During her years in Philadelphia, she played with the renown Ana Crusis women’s choir. She also taught music both in the Philadelphia public schools and in Catholic schools. She also attended Villanova University, pursuing a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Human Services.
Karen lost touch with her beloved piano during years of illness and even homelessness. While in transitional housing at Women of Hope, she began playing piano again – “but only during commercials, since the piano was in the TV room, and the ladies were always watching something.” But, she says, it was only when I got into Project HOME that she got the chance to play again and the recognition for her talent.
Today, the Maestro gets occasional music gigs, including playing regularly at the Reading Terminal market in Center City. She even performed at the Kimmel Center in 2011, as part of the celebration of the Sisters of Mercy centennial.
In 2011, with the production assistance of Project HOME supporter Larry Gold, owner of an award-winning recording studio, Karen recorded a CD of holiday songs entitled “HOME for the Holidays.” In its first three years, the CD has sold over 1,500 copies.
“Music is a very special place for me, like no other place that I have in my life,” says Karen. “It’s magical. It makes me more alive, and it’s a way for me to express emotions that I can’t express any other way.”
You can listen to a wonderful sampling of Karen’s magical talent here.