Karen Hart Band
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Karen Hart Band

Naperville, IL | Established. Jan 01, 2007

Naperville, IL
Established on Jan, 2007
Band Rock Classic Rock


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Having Fun with the Karen Hart Band!"

Nobody has more fun on stage than Karen Hart. All you have to do is look at her, with her welcoming smile, infectious stage manner and boundless energy, and you know she loves her job.

“My main goal is to get people smiling and dancing and moving around, “the veteran guitarist and keyboardist asserts. “I’m already having fun. I want them to have fun. And then if they start having even more fun, I will too.”

The lissome blonde, first bitten by the music bug at the age of four, has been having fun onstage with her west-suburban-based KAREN HART BAND since 2007, when she brought together some former band mates for a private party. Guitarist Norm Leonard, the sole remaining member of that party band, had first played with Karen back in the ‘90s. “I was in a band with Norm for a while, GUI (pronounced gooey), which stood for Graphical User Interface,” she explains, “because Norm and I were both programmers at the time.” Drummer Gerry Sasso came from BAND ON THE RUN and bassist John Chisari (SELECTIVE RECALL) joined after the band’s 2008 Taste of Chicago performance.

With her rhythm section firmly in place, Karen has reached a comfort level onstage that lets her be herself, even if the crowd is as big as Taste of Chicago. “It’s all about level of preparedness,” she says. “I do a lot of research trying to figure out what are the good songs and what songs fit us. I also listen to our fans. I always take their input to put the songs that they want to hear into the set.”

Those songs include Gerry’s vocal take on DAVE MASON’s “Feelin’ Alright?” and Norm’s version of TOM PETTY’s “American Girl.” Karen drops the guitar for her cover of JIM PETERIK’s “Vehicle,” Norm ably suggesting Peterik’s original guitar solo while making it his own, over MIDI’d keyboard horn tracks. John’s pulsating bass line propels the two slashing guitarists through THE PRETENDERS’ “Mystery Achievement.”

A certain amount of serendipity has followed Karen through her career with a number of local bands. Starting in 1988, she played with CHEAP DATES for six years after drawing a crowd of admirers with a borrowed guitar during a break in their show. Her first gig with them was at the Rosemont Horizon, now the Allstate Arena. “That was my first gig ever and I just totally got hooked. It was so much fun,” she enthuses.

After that, “I was out of a band for a while,” Karen admits, “and I really got the itch, so I just started asking around, then looking through ads, and answered an ad for a lead guitar player, which I am not,” she insists. The audition turned into a jam session, and the jam session turned into yet another band, Z SHARP, which lasted a couple of years before Karen teamed up with Norm in GUI.

Her time as keyboard player in the PAT BENETAR tribute band BATTLEFIELD gave Karen her next big break. She had finished her warm-up set at Chicago City Limits when the headliners asked to speak to her. “The lead singer says, “We just saw you play with BATTLEFIELD, and we’d like to know if you’d be interested in joining BAND ON THE RUN as Linda McCartney?” And I said, “Wow, did I sing that bad?’” Karen laughs. She stayed with them for about five years, until the band dissolved around the time of that private party.

Now a regular attraction on the local club and festival circuits, Karen and the boys like to play popular songs that people can relate to, and dance to. “I actually go out into the audience a lot, to interact on a one-on-one basis, to get everybody having fun, too,” she stresses, singling out MELISSA ETHERIDGE as a personal favorite. The Etheridge version of TOM PETTY’s “Refugee” is a particular crowd pleaser.

“The other ones that I like are the ones that I can get out in the crowd and dance to. So what we’ve done with a few of the songs, we try to do them close to the originals but we add a longer outro (“Rhiannon,” “Gold Dust Woman,” “Feelin’ Alright?”), meaning, Karen goes out in the audience while Norm does a whole bunch of leads,” she laughs again, “so I can dance with everybody.”

Karen brings out the heart-shaped guitar for ELVIS’s “Burning Love,” her growls adding emphases as Leonard fondles his leggy-lady guitar. “Norm has a lot of guitars that he brings to the show,” Karen remarks, “and each one is always a surprise. He’s got the girl guitar, and he’s got the tommy gun guitar, and he’s got a clear see-through guitar. I can’t remember all of them.”

Guitarist Leonard effortlessly rips off some fluid solos on his red Stratocaster but the focus is rightly on Hart. Soft-spoken in person, Karen can get tough onstage. She rocks it like she owns it, long hair blowing in the breeze, and never once stops smiling, and to her that’s the point.

“I think that’s really the main goal right now, for me,” Karen sums up, “to make sure everybody’s having a good time.”
- Chicago Rocker

"Day Job & Night Job, Why Not?"

Local entrepreneur and entertainer, Karen Hart, is a successful business executive during the day but a hard driving rock n’ roller at night. Karen is a partner in a highly successful software company in Naperville, Park Street Solutions Company, which she co-founded in 1999. At night, however, her passion is the stage where she and fellow band mates rock out in local night clubs and summer festivals with the Karen Hart Band or KHB for short.

While KHB was founded in 2006, Karen and her fellow band mates have been rocking the Chicago area for well over 20 years. Karen is the lead singer and plays guitar and keyboard. Other band members include Carol Stream resident Pete Melody on bass, Berwyn resident Norman Leonard on lead guitar, and Elk Grove Village resident Gerry Sasso on drums. Both Leonard and Sasso also perform lead vocals giving the band a well rounded and diverse sound.

According to Hart “The great thing about this band is the level of talent each performer brings to the stage. Norm is an extremely talented lead guitarist, I would say a virtuoso. He not only entertains the audience with his onstage antics but he is always entertaining us. Gerry, our most veteran performer, is an extremely accomplished drummer having performed with a long list of local legends in the surrounding Chicago area and is the foundation KHB was built on. Pete can pound out a bass line that you feel in your soul. His natural talent and self-assured style is a big part of what keeps the band tight.”

Karen’s passion for music is evident in her performances, she puts her ‘hart’ and soul into the music and it really shows on stage. You can tell she’s having a blast when she is performing and watch out because her enthusiasm is very contagious. “It’s a lot of work running the business side of the band and also being one of the musicians, but it is well worth the payoff of doing what you love, having fun on stage and watching the audience having fun right along with you”.

Hart’s hard-working nature is also evident in her day job. Park Street’s latest endeavor is in the health care industry incorporating the best in modern data warehouse design practices, along with Park Street's advanced knowledge modeling technology, to create a highly sophisticated solution for clinical data management. Park Street also develops solutions that adapt enterprise systems to the outside world for a wide variety of customers in the healthcare, financial, manufacturing and telecommunications industries.

- United States of America (Press Release) April 19, 2008 by Walter Savage

"High energy: Karen Hart Band kicks off 59th annual Lena Fall Festival tonight"

With high energy rockin’ the stage, the Karen Hart Band will jump start a weekend of music, fun and games at 7 p.m. today at the 59th annual Lena Fall Festival. This is a band with a well-known name in the Chicago area and in the Midwest. They will be bringing a high-energy show to the stage, performing classic rock, a bit of country rock and for a bit of the something different – alternative rock.

Karen Hart leads this hard-charging group of rockers and brings her powerful voice and takes her energy from stage to crowd. Hart said one of her favorite things about performing is engaging the crowd into her act and the best way for her to do this is to mix with the crowd and to bring members of the crowd onto the stage.

Hart may be the heart of this band, but the other three band mates help deliver a sound that will become more familiar as the show ensues. Hart is an accomplished musician, who dates her roots back to guitar and piano as a young girl hanging out with her aunt. She attributes her love for music to her aunt. Piano drew her in and then she picked up the violin in fourth grade, with piano lessons following in the eighth grade. Piano introduced Hart to a love of music and picking up the violin was a way she could pursue music in the string form. The violin is just one of the instruments she uses to compliment the sounds she loves to create.

“I remember falling in love with music when I was 4 years old,” Hart said. “From then I just kept moving forward.

“My true love is the guitar, which I began playing at 9-years-old, and from then on the music just started to bubble out of me,” she said.

Hart admits to giving her all during a show and in this interview stated she was sore from the previous night’s show. She is humble about the high energy of the show she fronts and said she doesn’t just stand and sing – she takes to dance and runs about the stage.

“I draw my energy from the crowds and when the guys and I take stage, the show takes form and from then until the end of the show, it is non-stop fun and rock,” she said.

This band is made up of lead guitarist Norm Leonard, drummer Gerry Sasso and Jon Chisari on bass. Hart said the lead guitarist plays a wireless guitar, which allows him to join her in the audience to draw the audience into the fun of the show.

“Our music is based on the theme of classic rock,” Hart said. “We tailor our sets to the audience, but we also try to offer a variety of the music people are familiar with – it’s all about the energy and the fun of it all.”

This energetic rock show opens the weekend of fun for this annual festival and Hart said she loves mixing with her audience and loves the flavor of the closeness of small town festivals. She said she spoke with members of the band Tin Horse who played Lena Fall Festival in 2008 and she said they relayed to her “the Lena Festival was loads of fun and the food was awesome.”

“I’m looking forward to hitting the town in the afternoon to ready for our show,” Hart said. “People will get caught up in our show.”

The band is well known in the Chicago area and has opened for such major acts as the Gin Blossoms, Smithereens, Ides of March and Dennis DeYoung.
- The Journal-Standard By Jane Lethlean

"Girls that ROCK!"

I work very hard as a leader, musician and as a person so that I can be an empowering role model for young girls that may have aspirations to someday ROCK! We are the minority so I want all of them to know anything is possible if they work hard and follow their dream like I did.

I'm actually a classically trained pianist and violinist………”One time at band camp…”

I love this business, you meet the most interesting and talented people. The Gin Blossims, The Smithereens, Dennis DeYoung, Patty Smyth, Davy Jones and my favorite rocker - Jim Peterik – ROCK ON JP.

We opened the Taste of Chicago on LIVE TV; it is the first time I ever got up at 2:00am for a gig instead of packing up at 2:00am. We met all the local morning show personalities and I still hear from people they saw us dancing with Kim Vatis from NBC 5 News Chicago as she played my heart-shaped guitar.

The business of rock and roll is a lot of hard work, and sometimes there doesn't seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel. But the feeling I get after rocking out an audience and seeing their smiles and appreciation is worth all the hard work! I cannot imagine the day where I no longer ROCK!

They say that in order to be successful, you should surround yourself with really talented and creative people, and I did that when I hired Norman Leonard (guitar), Ron Smejkal (bass) and Jerry King (drums). I am very proud of what we have accomplished with all the talent and inspiration everyone has in the Karen Hart Band! Rock On! - ChicagoRocks.com Showcasing Chicago's BEST Rock!

"Good Times at Good Old Days"

Karen Hart jams on her guitar during the band's performance at Good Old Days Sept. 6. - Winfield Press

"Carol Stream festival deemed a 'success' despite bad weather"

By Elisabeth Mistretta

The rain seemed to start on cue Sunday afternoon, just minutes after Carol Stream's Summer in the Center fest kicked off its fourth and final day.

With steady rain falling and high winds blowing for the first two hours of the fest, organizers hurried to secure tents, sweep water puddles and keep festivities in tact for when the skies cleared.

As the sun emerged later in the afternoon, bands took the stage, concession stands opened and rides got moving.

"People are starting to trickle in," said Chris Oakley, Carol Stream's assistant to the village manager.

Almost everything remained on schedule throughout the four-day fest, with bands like Queen Nation and Mockstar taking the stage Saturday night despite storm warnings, and the Karen Hart Band rockin' on Sunday once the rain cleared.

Only a few features of the fest were canceled, such as an information booth for Superstar Karate of Carol Stream.
Deanna Mustafa, Pip Triggs and Ian O'Reilly of Superstar Karate performed a martial arts demonstration Saturday. But on Sunday they closed shop on their info booth shortly after the fest's noon start.

"At one point, the organizers told us to get to our cars because they wanted us to be safe," Mustafa said.

Ultimately, organizers said Summer in the Center succeeded despite unreliable weather and lower-than-hoped-for attendance.

Oakley said many devoted residents braved the elements to check out the food, rides and music.

"In these kind of situations you ask, 'If the weather was better, would more people have showed up?'" said Oakley. "They didn't show up in the amounts we would have liked, but I think the success of these things is when people come out and stay. This weekend people stayed, and we got rave reviews about the food, so that's how we look at it." - Daily Herald

"The Karen Hart Band ROCKS!"

“I love these guys” says Kori Chambers from Fox Chicago, “These guys are awesome” reported Kim Vatis from NBC Chicago. Just a few of the comments made by local morning show personalities when talking about the Karen Hart Band (KHB) as they opened the 2008 Taste of Chicago. “You got to love it when you are opening the Taste of Chicago and you hear great things like that” said Karen. “It was awesome being on TV but a little strange getting up at 2 AM to go to a gig instead of packing up at 2 AM.” KHB also had a great time slot right before Stevie Wonder on Saturday night where they rocked out the lake front.

When asked what makes the band special, lead guitarist Norm Leonard replied, “In this day where original and tribute bands rule the music scene, KHB harkens back to a day when you closed off the street and your friends’ band played for beer and everyone had a good time drinking and dancing.” Karen adds “The only difference is we are a rock solid band with four great musicians who all sing lead and background vocals. It makes us a unique cover band.”

“When I’m asked what sets us apart, I like to think it is the fact we are fronted by a powerful female vocalist who can flat out rock” says Gerry Sasso, the band’s drummer. “Karen does not limit herself to female artists. It doesn’t matter if the artist is male or female she’ll rock it out. She does a kick ass version of Vehicle by Ides of March.”

John Chisari, the bass player, stated “One of the big reasons I wanted to join KHB was the wide range of music we play. With this group we can cover classic rock with plenty of alternative tunes, a nice mix of blues and a few country rock songs. And we are always adding new music so we don’t get bored and neither does our audience.”

“Norm and I have a lot of energy and a great chemistry on stage”, said Karen. ”He is an outstanding guitar player and puts on an awesome show rocking on his one of many wild guitars”. “It’s worth coming to our show just to see what shape his guitar will be that night”. “I’m making him leave the naked lady axe home for the festival season!”

When asked why she likes being in a rock band, without hesitation Hart said “the people”. “We have fans from all over the Midwest come out to see us play and it was awesome when they nominated us for Best Classic Rock Band, Best Female Front for a Band and Best Rock Band”. “We also get to meet a lot of wonderful people in the industry having played in front of groups like the Gin Blossoms, The Smithereens, Dennis DeYoung, Infinity and American English”.

KHB’s “Summer of ’09 Tour” is kicking off this month with a bunch of great festivals. Highlights include KHB warming up Davy Jones at West Chicago Railroad Days and they will be playing just before Hi-Infidelity at Northlake Days. They end their summer tour playing for one of their favorite charity events at the Eli’s Cheesecake Factory benefit for the New Horizon Center for the Developmentally Disabled and The Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Check out their website www.KarenHartBand.com for updated information and added dates or make it easy on yourself and signup for the email list online and Karen sends out a periodic newsletter to keep you current on their upcoming shows.

Temulac Open House 6/06 8:00p Lena Fest 9/04 7:30p
Time Out West 6/13 9:30p Taste of Polonia 9/06 3:30p
Northlake Days 6/26 7:30p Schaumburg Septemberfest 9/07 5:30p
Bartlett 4th of July 7/05 3:00p Bloomingdale Septemberfest 9/12 3:30p
West Chicago Railroad Days 7/10 7:30p Eli’s Cheesecake Fest 10/3,4 tba

Special Thanks from KHB – We would really like to thank all our loyal fans, Addie our beautiful photographer, Wally our carrier of heavy stuff, our sound crew Brian and Mark and all the great musicians we now include in our circle of friends. Your support keeps us rocking! We would also like to thank NiteLife for showcasing all the great musical talent in the Chicago area. We not only advertise here but we also use it to find out where are fellow musicians/friends are playing so we can support them! ROCK ON!

To contact Karen, send her an email Karen@KarenHartBand.com or call the band hotline 630-445-1580.

- Suburban Nitelife Featured Band


Still working on that hot first release.



The Karen Hart Band - Pretending (KHB) features the music of The Pretenders along with the Power Women of ROCK! KHB is a "Crazy Good" female-fronted High-Energy Classic Rock show with four experienced and solid musicians who love what they are doing entertaining all ages with their great song selection and endless energy. Their high-energy shows are filled with variety, flashy guitar work with a memorable show that continues to rock audiences of all ages. This explosive show is designed for fans that LOVE to dance and sing along! The set list covers rock favorites from classic to current and is full of energy delivering a true concert experience in every detail. In KHB, everyone sings providing variety and authentic, full vocal, goodtime rock harmonies that few bands can equal and their fans continue to enjoy. Whether the venue is a festival, fair, concert in the park series, casino, nightclub, or a private party, you can count on KHB to deliver a high-energy performance that will have everyone dancing and singing along to tunes everyone knows by heart. Wicked leads, dancing guitarists, Karen out in the audience and some all-out fun on the stage are the hallmarks of this rock show! Come out and see for yourself, view the Band Schedule.  The Karen Hart Band has been rocking audiences at festivals, fairs, casinos and corporate functions. Here is a list of just a few of them. The Taste of Chicago   Naperville's Last FlingSchaumburg Septemberfest   Bolingbrook JubileeTaste of Lombard   Northlake DaysTaste of Polonia   Carol Stream FestWoodridge Jubilee   Frankfort Fall FestPlainfield Fest   Plainfield River DaysWinfield Good Old Days   Bartlett 4th of July FestSchaumburg Septemberfest   Bloomingdale SeptemberfestLong Grove Strawberry Festival   Long Grove Apple FestivalSomonauk Summerfest   Worth DaysWest Chicago Railroad Days   Berwyn Centennial FestGrand Victoria Casino   Lena FestEli's Cheesecake Fest   Monee Fall Faire No matter what the venue is the Karen Hart Band - Pretending ................. "makes it FUN”!

Band Members