Karen Buckwalter


Karen Buckwalter, a distinguished organist, pianist, and composer served as a full time Minister of Music for 37 years in Hanover, PA. She served from 2002 until retiring in 2014 as Associate Minister of Music at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, in Hanover, where she directed the handbell program, coordinated the Saturday blended worship and was privileged to play a 231 rank Austin organ, the 8th largest church organ in the world.
Ms. Buckwalter is a 1974 graduate of Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ where she received her Bachelor of Music Education degree.  She is also a 1977 graduate of The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where she studied organ with John Weaver and earned the prestigious Artists Diploma in Organ Performance.  In 2005, she returned to the classroom to study theology at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, PA and was commissioned (2007) as an ELCA Associate in Ministry.  This gave her the opportunity to assist the St. Matthew ministerial staff with additional preaching/visitation and led her to create a shawl ministry that reached beyond the church membership to serve a women’s shelter, a pregnancy clinic and the forensic unit at Hanover Hospital. In 2012, Ms. Buckwalter recorded a piano CD entitled, “How Sweet the Sound” which served as a fundraiser for the church/organ renovation and in 2013 she learned to play a lever harp to enhance her visitation ministry.

Internationally known in the field of handbell composition, Mrs. Buckwalter composed her first published work, “Danza” in 1982. Recognized for her original compositions such as “Soliloquy for Bells” and “Nocturne in a minor,” she now has over 70 bell/choral compositions in print.  She has earned enthusiastic praise for her creative compositions, her colorful harmonies and her use of chromatics that have raised the musicality in handbell music as a genre.  Sought after as a handbell conductor/clinician for workshops and festivals throughout the US, in 2013, she was festival conductor for the West Midlands Festival in Hereford, UK.  Her works have been recorded in the United States, Estonia and Japan and they are frequently selected at area and national handbell conferences throughout the country.