Grateful for scholarship, pianist and cantor is giving back

je, 02-06-2023

Karen Blum was able to hone her piano skills at the Frost School of Music thanks to scholarship support. Her planned bequest will pave the way for future generations of aspiring classical pianists.


Cantor Karen Blum likes to joke that she came out of the womb playing the piano. While that may not be true, it is pretty close. By age three, she received an inexpensive toy piano featuring a simple child’s keyboard that only had two octaves. She hasn’t stopped playing since.

“If I heard it once, I could play it right back,” explained Blum. “In the second grade, my elementary school principal asked my parents to bring my little toy piano to school. A schedule was made, and I went from class to class leading sing-alongs, sharing my love for music.”

Blum’s was not a wealthy family, yet her grandmother surprised her with the delivery of a real spinet piano at age nine, and by age eleven she was playing in concerts.  Her prowess at the piano eventually led to an audition at the University’s Frost School of Music. “I played ‘Rustles of Spring’ for my audition,” she recalled. 

“When I finished playing, one of the professors suddenly stood up and said, ‘Welcome to the University of Miami.’ I received a full scholarship, a most amazing opportunity for a girl who, coming from a family with no means to pay for college, was able to learn and perfect my skills in ways I could not even have imagined. Grateful does not begin to describe my appreciation and life experiences through this wonderful opportunity.”

It's that same gratitude that has led Blum to include the University in her estate plans to establish The Cantor Karen Blum Classical Piano Scholarship Endowment. The scholarship will provide financial assistance to Frost School of Music students studying the classical piano.

“This gift is my way of paying it forward,” said Blum. “I feel as though I am giving back, no matter how large or small the gift may be, by providing future generations of talented pianists who may also have wonderful accompanying and sight-reading abilities, the opportunity to study piano (with the greatest experts), wherever it may lead them.”

For Blum, her education led her to explore a variety of different career options—as long as they included playing the piano. “I was quite busy raising children, teaching piano students at home, and writing musical arrangements and accompaniments for whoever needed assistance,” she remembered. “As my children began school, I would take any opportunity that came my way—from teaching music at Jewish day schools to teaching children at the Blue Star summer camp in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

“One door was always opening another. The blessing of my life was the wonderful people always opening musical doors, and all I had to do was walk through.”    

It could be said that Blum was the ultimate networker before there was even such a term. It was through her varied and interesting connections that she learned about something that would eventually become her life’s work: becoming a cantor. At that time most cantors were men, and these men took her under their tutelage and assured that she realized a new dream.

“These men made a plan, taught me; and again, they opened doors and helped me, for which I am eternally grateful,” said Blum. “When ready for a full-time pulpit, I went through a challenging, yet rewarding audition, noting difficult musical questions that had to be from a wonderful musician.  While awaiting the end of audition season, I learned I would be hired, provided all the details could be worked out. The difficult musical questioner, a Julliard piano graduate, became a lifetime friend.” 

Blum served as a cantor at South Florida synagogues in three counties, but it is in Palm Beach County that she has remained.

“When I look back at my life, everything good that happened to me started because people did wonderful things for me. I feel I must, to the best of my ability, do the same for others.”