Ken Karsh

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Ken Karsh

Portrait of Ken Karsh playing the guitar. Ken Karsh began playing guitar at age 9 and has been deeply involved in music and music education ever since. He attended Berklee College of Music and received his B.Mus. and M.Mus. in Performance at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pa. 

Over the past several years, Karsh has performed live and on recordings with nationally and locally known musicians such as Jimmy McGriff, Barry Miles, Spider Rondinelli, Eric Kloss, Bobby McFerrin, Lee Konitz, Larry Elgart, Joe Negri, Joey DeFrancesco, “Papa John” DeFrancesco, Jack McDuff, Gene Ludwig, Bernadette Peters, Nathan Davis, Michael Gibbs, and Angel Romero.

One of Ken’s proudest moments is his participation as guitarist for the soundtrack for the documentary film In My Hands, which was directed by Ann Reinking with music composed by Jeffrey Saver. 

As guitarist (and occasional mandolin player) for a variety of Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera musical theater productions, he has performed in productions including Legally Blonde, Swing, Les Miserables, Jesus Christ Superstar, Chess, Chicago, A Chorus Line, Parade, Fiddler on the Roof, Copacabana and The Lion King.

Karsh also has performed with the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Opera Orchestra. In 1981 he was featured as the solo electric guitarist in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Andre Previn’s Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra. 

Karsh serves on the faculties at California University of Pennsylvania and the Mary Pappert School of Music at Duquesne University. He has been a clinician for the Duquesne University Summer Guitar Workshop.

His arrangements and etudes are featured in the Mel Bay and Warner Bros. publications, Jazz Guitar Standards (2002) and Jazz Guitar Standards: Chord Melody Solos and Mel Bay’s Guitar Journals: Jazz. He has authored two textbooks for guitar: Jazz Scale Workout (Mel Bay Publications) and the self-published Fingerboarding Made EZ: Scale & Arpeggio Visualization for Guitar. 

Karsh has two CD releases of his own compositions and jazz standards entitled Ventana and Conversations, both on Alanna Records. Recently, he was featured on Live Performances, vol. 4 by keyboardist Dave Powers and has also co-produced a new digital download by James Witherite, Modern Organ Trio.

Karsh plays Archtop guitars made by Tim Brockman (, utilizes Fender amplifiers, and is an endorsee for D’Addario Strings.

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Balcony Big Band

Boilermaker Jazz Band

Cal U Jazz Bands

Ken Karsh Trio

Mon Valley Jazz Orchestra

Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra


Tom Roberts

Washington Jazz Society Big Band


Tickets will be available at Cal U on the day of the festival; no advance ticket sales are planned. Members of the campus community will be admitted free with a valid CalCard.

Parking is included in the ticket price, and food can be purchased on campus.

Less than an hour’s drive from Pittsburgh, California University is easy to reach via major highways and Toll Route 43. 

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