Karen Burke holds a Master of Education Degree from York University, an Honours Bachelor of Music Degree from McMaster University, and an A.R.C.T. Diploma in Piano Teaching from the Royal Conservatory of Music.
Karen and her husband, Oswald, established Burke Music Inc., a Gospel music production and publishing company in Ontario, Canada. In 1988, Burke co-founded the Toronto Mass Choir (T.M.C.), a Juno award-winning gospel choir. The choir has recorded 14 albums and toured in ten countries, including Italy, Poland, and the Dominican Republic.
In 2005, Burke became a professor in the music department at York University, developing the first post-secondary gospel music curricular courses in Canada and establishing the York University Gospel Choir.
Burke has offered workshops for many schools and organizations, including the University of Toronto, the University of Western Ontario, the Ontario Music Educators Association (O.M.E.A.), and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). Burke has also traveled abroad teaching Gospel music in countries like the United States, Poland, and Romania.
Burke’s primary research thesis, ‘The Gospel Choir Community in Motion” was awarded a research prize by York University. In 2016, York University appointed Burke as the Inaugural Fellow for the Helen Carswell Chair in Community-Engaged Research in the Arts, providing leadership for research in the Jane & Finch community to assist R.P.S.M. and various other community arts organizations.
In 2019, the Black Business and Professional Association (B.B.P.A.) awarded Burke the Harry Jerome Award in the Arts, Media, and Entertainment category. This award acknowledges a history of outstanding achievement in the creative arts, media, and entertainment industry. The Harry Jerome Award is one of the most prestigious national awards in the African-Canadian community in Canada.
In 2020, Burke joined a list of other Canadian music icons in a collection of interviews in the new book release of ‘Talk’ by well-known musician and on-air radio host Bill King.