Guarini classmate has her own spot in the limelight

Posted: June 29, 2003

PLUMSTEAD — About a year ago, Karen Gross left her boyfriend's house, unsettled about the relationship, afraid she would be hurt if she allowed herself to fall in love.

On the way home, she stopped in a parking lot, grabbed some notepaper and started writing.

"Want to see the pages?" she said, rummaging through the piano bench at her family home. "I keep everything like a pack rat."

The neatly handwritten words connected by squiggles and arrows came together as "Break Up With Me, Baby," the third track on her debut CD, Navigating, which was released this month.

Gross softly sang lyrics from the lined page, "I hope, yes I hope, that time will bring an answer. But time might bring us closer, so the answer might be harder to hear."

The song was liberating to write, said Gross, prone to outbursts of infectious laughter.

"It doesn't always have to be a conscious creation," she said. "You have to seize the inspiration, cling to the words, and then flesh it out on the instrument."

Just two years out of college, Gross, 23, has achieved a couple of her goals - producing her own CD and performing at the Tin Angel in Philadelphia. A 1997 graduate of Central Bucks East High School in Buckingham, she shared the honor of "Most Likely to Win a Grammy" with classmate Justin Guarini of American Idol fame.

Gross, a regular at John & Peter's in New Hope, was one of nine performers selected as a New Edge Mix Artist by the Community Education Center for its 2002-03 season. She performed at the center's theater in Philadelphia in April.

Terri Shockley, executive director of the center, said the program was designed to help new artists by giving them a venue in which to perform, a $250 stipend, a videotape and photos.

"She's one of the few artists that is very much on top of things, very businesslike. She's involved in the arts and wants to be part of the scene," Shockley said.

The singer-songwriter's early influences were Neil Young, Carole King, and Joni Mitchell "big time."

"Joni Mitchell is very much a storyteller, very much confessional. She's a poet, so visual," said Gross, whose own narrative songs resonate with imagery.

Now, she enjoys listening to Alanis Morissette, Lucinda Williams and Sarah McLachlan.

"I think in some ways I'm a romantic. I'm trying to figure out love through music," said Gross, who is not in a relationship now. "I'm very passionate and emotional. Love captures my artistic imagination."

Writing comes naturally to Gross, who allows herself to "listen to that inner voice, that inner melody." Producing a CD, however, was a learning experience.

"Everything on this album was thought of. There were no accidents," said Gross, who selected a soft, cardboard cover for the packaging. "It reminds me of a book, so people would read into it and think about the lyrics."

She hired musicians and a graphic designer and paid them from her "millions of jobs," which included performing, hostessing and writing. She said it cost more than $5,000 to produce 1,000 CDs.

"Living at home has helped," said Gross, repeatedly acknowledging her parents' support.

A graduate of Wesleyan University in Connecticut with a degree in American studies, Gross holds a full-time job as news editor of the weekly Bucks County Herald.

She takes time to perform at schools and libraries and also has become involved with A Woman's Place, which aids victims of domestic violence.

Lynn Hefele, development director of the organization, described a fortuitous phone call from Gross the day after a scheduled musician canceled a fund-raising performance. Gross stepped right in.

"It was a godsend," Hefele said, adding that "she communicates with the audience well. . . . She's got a warmth about her."

Gross, who said she composes music by ear, recently resumed piano lessons, which she had taken through middle school. For the last year, she has worked with a voice teacher.

"I'm stuck with a limited vocabulary. It's like a poet working with only half the alphabet," she said. "I want to grow. Frankly, I want more tools to express myself."

She also has heard her share of criticism - write in the third person, get voice lessons, don't be naive. She seems prepared to deal with negative comments that come with the career.

"You have to believe in yourself enough to process all the information and feedback," she said.

"You have to take it as constructively as you can without feeling defeated. . . . I stand behind what I've done. It's a work-in-progress."

Send Arts news to suburban staff writer Valerie Reed, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 830 Town Center Drive, Langhorne, Pa. 19047; e-mail it to PAarts@phillynews.com; or fax to 215-702-7820. Contact Valerie Reed at 215-702-7806 or reedv@phillynews.com.

SNAPSHOT

Karen Gross

Age: 23

Challenges in the music field: "Getting out there. It takes work to promote yourself and get shows. It's work to pull together an album. I'm a perfectionist."

Best advice she has received: "From my voice teacher, who told me when you're performing don't forget to breathe, because the audience breathes with you. Also to honor yourself as an artist, not to run from your art."

Advice to aspiring musicians: "As an artist, you have to be not just a creator, but a listener. Go to other people's shows, meet other musicians. . . . Also, you have to decide to take this seriously and believe in what you're doing enough to pursue it."

If You Go:

Karen Gross is scheduled to perform at 7 p.m. Friday at the Black Bass Hotel, River Road, Lumberville, and at 3 p.m. next Sunday at John and Peter's, South Main Street, New Hope. For more information, check www.karengross.com.

Special Events

Irish Famine Ship Jeanie Johnston, replica of 19th-century Irish "famine ship," with living museum, exhibit on Irish immigration. Lion Park, Mill & Radcliff Sts, Bristol; 215-736-1366. www.jeaniejohnston.ie. $5 tours. Through 6/30.

Village Library of Wrightstown 727 Penns Park Rd, Wrightstown; 215-598-3322. Outdoor movie: Spiderman. Free. 8:30 p.m. Thu. Outdoor movie: The Rookie. Fri.

Washington Crossing Historic Park Memorial Bldg, N of Rtes 532 & 32, Washington Crossing; 215-493-4076. Site of Washington crossing Delaware prior to Battle of Trenton; with 18th cent McConkey Ferry Inn & Thompson-Neely House, 19th cent Taylorsville village, Bowman's Hill observation tower, 500 acres of woods. $5; $4 seniors; $2 ages 6-17. Visitors Center: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues-Sats, noon-5 p.m. Suns.

U.S. Open Tennis To tournament in Flushing, NY. Depart from Frosty Hollow Tennis Center, New Falls Rd, Levittown; 215-757-0571 ext 3312 or 215-949-2280. $80. 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. 8/28. Registration required.

Craft Shows, Sales & Bazaars

Free admission unless noted.

Farm Market Locally-grown fruit & vegetables, baked goods, crafts, plants; Plumsteadville Grange sponsors. Rte 611 at Kellers Church Rd, Plumsteadville; 215-766-0707. 9 a.m.-noon Sats.

Flea Market Bensalem Lions Club sponsors. Armstrong Middle School, Street Rd, Bensalem; 215-633-3655 mailbox 3000#. 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Sats through Nov. Space available for vendors.

Mini Thrift Shop Falls Twp Senior Center, 282 Trenton Rd, Fairless Hills; 215-547-6564. 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. 1st & 3rd Thurs.

Trips

Falls Twp Senior Center 282 Trenton Rd, Fairless Hills; 215-547-6564. Atlantic City. $16. 9 a.m. 2d Thus. Shady Maple Restaurant & Martin's Food Store in Lancaster. $7. 7/19. New England & Canada Cruise. $799-$1,199. 9/20-27. 800-624-7718.

Morrisville Senior Service Center 31 E Cleveland Ave, Morrisville; 215-295-0567. Atlantic City. $15. Showboat bus departs noon; Trump Marina leaves 1 p.m. 2d Weds of month. Baltimore Inner Harbor. $53. 7/23.

Mt Vernon To George Washington's estate & museums in Washington, D.C. Bus leaves from Southampton Community Center, Willow St & Tabor Rd, Southampton; 215-355-9781. $77; $67 Upper Southampton Twp residents; $64 seniors. 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m. 7/12.

To Live Again (TLA) Street Rd (near Bustleton Ave), Feasterville; "Best of Broadway", theater show; Mt Haven, PA. $52. 6/17. 215-357-2025. Rainbow Dinner Theater; Lancaster, PA. $65. 9/23. 215-357-2025.

Upper Bucks Senior Center 26 N 4th St, Quakertown; 215-536-3066.

Upper Southampton Parks & Recreation Buses depart from Southampton Community Center, Willow St & Tabor Rd, Southampton; 215-355-9781. www.southamptonpa.com.

Women's Guild of St Mary Medical Center 215-752-8778. Northern National Parks: Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier. $2,672-$3,332. 9/13-21. Tours of Nemours (Alfred I. DuPont Estate) & Hotel DuPont. $82. 10/14.

Art Exhibits

*NEW* Abington Art Center 515 Meetinghouse Rd, Jenkintown; 215-887-4882. www.abingtonartcenter.org. Helen Ziga, works on paper. Opening reception 6-8 p.m. Wed. Closes 8/1. Group furniture show. Closes 7/25.

Art in the Storefront 41 E Butler Ave, Ambler; 215-654-9106. Marcie Feldman, mixed media paintings, monotypes. Closes 7/17.

*NEW* Artsbridge 243 N Union St, Lambertville; 609-773-0881. Group show on theme of "Beautiful America," mixed media. Opening reception 6-9 p.m. 7/4. Closes 7/27. Kim Kurki & Bill Osler, leaded stained glass panel. Opening reception 6-9 p.m. Fri. Closes 6/29. Group show, mixed media. Closes 6/1.

Barnes Foundation 300 N Latches Ln (2 blocks N of 54th St & City Ave), Merion; 610-667-0290. www.barnesfoundation.org. Work by Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Rousseau, Matisse, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, other impressionists & post-impressionists, African art & PA Dutch functional pieces. $5. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Fris-Suns. 400 people allowed entry per day. Reservations required: 610-667-0290 option 5.

Doylestown Art League Bucks Co Courthouse, 3d floor rotunda, Doylestown; 215-752-0509.

Langman Willow Grove Park Mall, 2500 Moreland Rd, Willow Grove; 215-657-8333. Group contemporary furniture show; Eve Hoyt, neon sculptures. Close 8/31.

Mennonite Heritage Center 565 Yoder Rd, Harleysville; 215-256-3020. Country food market show: reproductions of early market artifacts, historical photographs. Closes 10/31.

James A Michener Art Museum 138 S Pine St, Doylestown; 215-340-9800. www.michenerartmuseum.org. Alan Goldstein: 15 abstract expressionist paintings based on nature. Closes 8/23. Japanese ukiyo-e prints (1600s-1867) from Honolulu Academy of Arts collection. Closes 8/31. 30 international contemporary quilts from Museum of Arts & Design, NYC. $4 additional. Closes 7/6. James Lloyd, 5 outdoor sculptures. Closes 7/20. $6; $5.50 seniors; $3 students; free under age 6. Hours: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tues-Fris (to 9 p.m. Weds), 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sats, noon-5 p.m. Suns. Joint admission, Mercer Museum: $10, adults only.

Mixed Media 323 S Main St, Doylestown; 215-345-0980. www.mixedmediaart.com. Community group show, small mixed media works. Closes 8/29.

Pennswood Village Art Gallery 1382 Newtown-Langhorne Rd, Newtown; 215-968-9110.

*NEW* Stover Mill Gallery 852 River Rd, Erwinna; 610-294-9420.

Studio Gallery 5 S Main St, Doylestown; 215-340-0204. www.thestudiogallery.net.Temple Judea Museum Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, 8339 Old York Rd, Elkins Park; 215-887-2027. Daniel Shanken, photographs of Israel. Closes Sun.

3 Cranes 82 S Main St, New Hope; 215-862-5626.

Upstairs Peddler's Village, Courtyard, Rtes 202 & Street Rd, Lahaska; 215-794-8486. www.theupstairsgallery.com. Ilene Young, mixed media. Closes 7/5.

Performing Arts

Music/In Concert

*FREE* Bucks County Community College Library Auditorium, 275 Swamp Rd, Newtown; 215-968-8088.

*FREE* Music in the Square Folk, jazz, bluegrass, more from area youth. Courthouse Square, Court & Main Sts, Doylestown; 215-348-2263. Noon-1 p.m. Fris.

*FREE* Sounds of Summer This week: Fame; Pennington Players present (Wed, Central Park.

Two locations: Central Park Amphitheater, Wells & Lower State Rds, Doylestown Twp or Chapman Park, Rte 202 & East Rd, Doylestown Borough; 215-348-9915. www.doylestownpa.org. 7 p.m. Weds. Rain location: Central Bucks West High School auditorium, 375 W Court St.

*FREE* Warminster Wednesday Nights This week: Warminster Symphony.

Warminster Parks & Recreation, 1101 Little Ln, Warminster; 215-443-5428. Unless noted: 6:30 p.m. Weds. Rain or shine.

Professional & Community Theater

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum Musical comedy; Actors' NET of Bucks Co presents. Morrisville Heritage Center, 635 N Delmorr Ave, Morrisville; 215-295-3694. $17; $15 seniors, ages under 13. Final performances today-Sun.

*NEW* Lebensraum Drama; Langhorne Players present. Langhorne Players present, Spring Garden Mill Playhouse, Rte 332, Newtown; 215-860-0818. www.langhorneplayers.org. $10 & $12. Fris-Suns (added shows 7/17, 7/23-24). Opens today. Closes 7/26.

Auditions & Rehearsals

Centennial Singers Chorus McDonald School, 851 E Street Rd, Warminster; 215-442-1178. Member call: open to new members, esp tenors & basses.

Langhorne Players Spring Garden Mill Playhouse, Rte 332, Newtown; 215-860-0818. www.langhorneplayers.org.

Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra 28 N Lansdowne Ave, Suite 1, Lansdowne; 610-284-3719. www.lansdowneso.org. Ongoing auditions. Call for appt.

The Newtown Arts Company Newtown Middle School, Rtes 413 & 322, Newtown; 215-860-9818.

The Playmasters State Rd, Bensalem; 215-245-7850.

Yardley Players Theater Company Kelsey Theater, Mercer Co Community College, 1200 Old Trenton Rd, West Windsor; 215-968-1904. www.yardleyplayers.org.

Nature

Barnes Foundation Arboretum 300 N Latches Ln (2 blocks N of 54th St & City Line Ave), Merion; 610-667-0290. www.barnesfoundation.org. . 12 acres of native, European, Asiatic specimen trees, shrubs. $5. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Fris-Suns (Weds-Fris, July-Aug). Reservations required: 610-667-0290 option 5.

Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve River Rd (Rte 32), New Hope; 215-862-2924. www.bhwp.org. 100 acres with marked trails. Guided walking tour: 2 p.m. daily. $5; $3 seniors; $2 ages 4-14; free ages under 4 (includes tour). Center: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Grounds: 8:30 a.m.-sunset daily.

*FREE* Bucks County Audubon Society Visitor Center, 2877 Creamery Rd (2 miles E of Peddler's Village), Solebury; 215-297-5880. www.bcas.org. Walks. 10 a.m. Sats. Bird walks. 8:30 a.m. Suns. Grounds walks. $3. 1-2 p.m. Suns. Historic 1930s barn, plus bird blind. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mons-Sats, noon-4 p.m. Suns. Outdoor programs rain or shine.

*FREE* Curtis Arboretum Church Rd & Greenwood Ave, Wyncote; 215-887-1000 ext 227. 45 acre estate of publishing magnate Cyrus H K Curtis, with 2 ponds. Dawn to dusk daily.

Dynamic Diversions 215-849-9944. www.dynamicdiversions.org. Non-profit group sponsors hiking, rock-climbing, sailing, riding & other outdoor activities. Call for locations & fees.

*FREE* Green Lane Nature Center Rte 29, Green Lane; 215-234-8497. www.montcopa.org/parks. Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mons-Sats, noon-4 p.m. Suns.

*FREE* Honey Hollow Environmental Center & Bucks County Audubon Visitor Center, 2877 Creamery Rd (2 miles E of Peddler's Village), Solebury; 215-297-8266. www.bcas.org. Walks. 10 a.m. Sats. History walks. 1 p.m. Suns. Historic 1930s barn, plus bird blind. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mons-Sats, noon-5 p.m. Suns. Outdoor programs rain or shine.

*FREE* Peace Valley Nature Center 170 Chapman Rd (entrance from New Galena Rd), Doylestown; 215-345-7860. Bird walk. 7 a.m. Sats. Family walk. 2 p.m. Suns. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues-Suns. Most walks rain or shine.

*FREE* Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust 2955 Edge Hill Rd, Huntingdon Valley; 215-657-0830. Visitors center, wetlands observation area, bird blind. Dawn-dusk daily.

*FREE* Schmieder Arboretum Delaware Valley College, 700 E Butler Ave, Doylestown; 215-489-2283. 60 acres with specialty gardens, trails, pond, more. Dawn-dusk daily.

*FREE* Silver Lake Nature Center 1306 Bath Rd, Bristol; 215-785-1177. www.silverlakenaturecenter.org. Bird walks. 7:20 a.m. Sats. Family walks. 2 p.m. Suns. 385 acres, over 3 miles of trails. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues-Sats, noon-5 p.m. Suns.

For Kids & Teens

Summer Camps

Art Camps Variety of topics for range of age groups. James A Michener Art Museum, 138 S Pine St, Doylestown; 215-340-9800. www.michenerartmuseum.org. Call for fees, schedule.

Bucks County Dept of Parks & Recreation Youth Adventure Camp, boating & water-related programs, photography, sports & arts camps; held at various locations. 215-489-5132 or 215-757-0571. Call for locations, fees, schedule.

Newtown Twp Parks & Recreation 215-968-2800. Camp Beechtree; ages 4-5. Mons-Fris 6/30-8/1. Camp Newtown; grades 1-5. Mons-Fris 6/30-8/8. Teen Camp; grades 6-8. Mons-Fris 6/30-8/8. Junior Boating Camp; ages 10-16. 7/28-7/31 or 8/4-7, 8/11-14, & 8/18-21. Call for location, fees, schedules.

Warrior Sports Camps Wrestling, soccer, field hockey, girls' lacrosse, cross-country; ages 8-18. Delaware Valley College, Rte 202, Doylestown; 570-977-1178 or 908-416-6436. www.warriorcamps.com. Various times, days 6/22-7/31. Call for fees, schedule.

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