Karen Smith Hirshon ’73

When Karen Smith Hirshon ’73 takes the stage, the possibilities abound. The versatile Grinnell alumna plays more than a half-dozen stringed instruments: fiddle, guitar, mandolin, banjo, ukulele, bass, and hammered dulcimer.

Prior to the pandemic, Hirshon (pictured above right) and her Simple Gifts bandmate, Linda Littleton (above left), entertained audiences at colleges, churches, libraries, schools, and senior centers. The duo also teach elementary school students to play the ukulele, help high school students arrange compositions, and do musical work with the elderly and people with severe disabilities.

During her first year at Grinnell, Hirshon befriended guitarist Celia Millington-Wyckoff ’72, now a bluegrass bass player in North Carolina, and Michael Drayton ’72, an old-time fiddler and violinist in California. While most students at the time were into pop music like the Beatles, Hirshon and friends gravitated to country music and prison songs.

“Grinnell really did expose us to the whole concept of just following your curiosities,” Hirshon says.

Share / Discuss