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Karen '88 and Mike Cardozo
Karen '88 and Mike Cardozo

For Karen Cardozo '88, Music is a Family Affair

Being in a band is like being a part of family—even more so when your musical group is made up of actual relatives, as Karen Cardozo ’88 knows only too well. She formed her band, Show of Cards, with two of her five younger brothers, Joe and Mike, in 2009. (Fellow Ford Kevin Cardozo ’91 is one of the clan, but not part of the group.) “Joe and Mike [were] born, respectively, 16 and 20 years after me,” says Karen. “[I’m] the oldest sibling and only girl. I never could have envisioned forming a family band with ‘the babies,’ and yet only they and I turned out to be musicians!”

All three of the Cardozo siblings were working on their own independent musical projects—Karen was previously one-half of the folk-rock duo Chattering Magpies— but when they found themselves finally living close to one another in Amherst, Mass., they took the opportunity to collaborate. Karen, the rhythm guitarist and singer, brought the songs she’d written, but with her brothers’ West African and hip-hop musical backgrounds, they were able to turn her folk tunes into surprisingly textured arrangements.

Recording their debut, Leap Year, five years ago “remains one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had" says Karen, who loved “witnessing my folk-rock songs transform in the hands of a much younger musician whose influences and talents were very different from mine.”

After that, Joe moved to an ashram in India to devote himself to a rigorous meditation practice. So when Show of Cards regrouped last year to record the band’s sophomore effort, Something Better, Mike replaced his brother behind the board as producer and pushed Karen’s songs into even moodier, more diverse territory. On different tracks, Karen marries her sweet, Natalie Merchant-like lilt to country torch songs, jazzy pop melodies, and soulful acoustic soundscapes.

“As much as I love folk-rock, after decades of buying albums and attending live shows, I often get the feeling that once I have heard one or two compositions on a given album, I have heard them all,” she says. “Perhaps I’m overcompensating, but as a result of never wishing to inflict that sense of predictability or boredom on anyone, I strongly resist completing any song that reminds me of any other song I’ve written.”

With Karen’s recent appointment to a tenure-track position as a professor of interdisciplinary studies at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and her busy family life, raising two teenage sons with Jon Kane ’87, Show of Cards primarily plays live in western Massachusetts. “[But] we do plan to keep an active schedule of playing out through 2014 to continue promoting Something Better," she says. “And any Fords who can figure out how to finance a tour are welcome to invite us out to play wherever you are!”

For more information:

—Rebecca Raber


This article originally appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of Haverford magazine.


The Climbing Stone, by Peter Rockwell '58, is located outside Magill Library.

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