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Conversations with Karina Pardus

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karina Pardus.

Hi Karina, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers.
Born and raised in Colorado, I was interested in music from a very young age. When my dad told me I was too young to take piano lessons, I started teaching myself how to play the songs I heard. My dad realized pretty quickly that I was not going to be deterred, and I began taking lessons.

My whole life I have thrived on seeking things that inspire. Music, books, people, mountains, clouds, trees with changing leaves, anything that could instill wonder made my life so much more vibrant, and I became an avid seeker of these things, writing them down at any moment. This is where my songwriting began, though I didn’t call myself a composer until I was almost through college.

I wasn’t like most kids – I knew I wanted to pursue music throughout my life, and there wasn’t anything else on that list. I was convinced I would be a professional concert pianist for my career, so I got my degree in piano performance, with a minor in communications and business organization. I did perform professionally for a few years, and then a move, a new baby, and a shoulder injury made me shift my focus.

Since then, I have been involved in so many different facets of the music industry that I would never have imagined as a child – performing, composing, teaching, editing, music prep work, arranging and becoming an activist for women in music. It hasn’t been linear but has been so fulfilling.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
In my experience, the struggle is a constant companion. It’s part of being human, though that fact doesn’t always make it easier. I’ve learned that struggles are the environment in which we can see miracles happen if we are able to stop fighting against the struggle and use our energy to open our eyes beyond the hard parts. I’ll share a few examples. I have experienced a lot of variety with my health, starting as a newborn when I had a stroke about an hour after I was born.

Medical science at the time believed that I didn’t have a chance at living a normal life and that I wouldn’t live to see my high school graduation. Lucky for me, neuroplasticity worked in my favor, and I was able to go to an Air Force Academy vs. BYU football game with some of those doctors for my 16th birthday. The resilience of my parents that I’ve witnessed has been miraculous to me, and a great teacher.

In my early 20s, I learned that my left leg was significantly shorter than my right, which was causing a lot of problems with my back. My physical therapist was teaching me how to sit, stand, and use stairs properly so I could unlearn the physical coping movements I had been using my whole life. It was so painful! It deeply affected my ability to play the piano, and I had a few professors tell me that I wouldn’t be able to finish the program and that I should quit. I was devastated. In that struggle, the miracle was one professor who chose to believe in me when no one else did and was willing to work with me in unique ways. Through him, I learned how to believe in myself without outside affirmation.

I’m a survivor of sexual assault, which began when I was a child. It took me years to understand that what happened to me was wrong, and decades to unlearn the reality that I was worthless, which was a lie perpetuated by shame. I’ve only recently begun to start talking about it in public spaces. Miracles often take time, and I definitely consider the power of my voice to share my story to be a miracle. I’ve experienced loss, postpartum depression, injury, chronic pain, hiccoughs in my career due to blatant sexism, and the questions of doubt that come with being a human being with dreams. I’ve learned that I am big enough to experience any of it, that none of it can destroy me as long as I choose to keep trying.

Every struggle is temporary. That doesn’t mean that it’s short or insignificant, but it does mean that because it’s not permanent, I will be able to outlive the struggle while simultaneously seeking and experiencing joy. This has been proven to me again, and again – that I am stronger than my struggles, and I am capable of finding joy with others in the midst of them.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
My work, as I said before, has become a brilliant variety of roles that are unique and bring their own sets of challenges and fulfillment. I have to first acknowledge my Creator and family. The support of my husband and 3 kids ages 10, 7, and 5 can’t be understated. Being a mom in the composing industry is its own kind of hard, but their cheers and tears with me have been an enormous source of strength in my journey.

Some of my current music roles include being a freelance composer where I am writing intro/outro music for podcasts and YouTube channels, doing music preparation work for other composers, and writing music for my own projects. One of those projects will be published next year in the Fall, so I’m looking forward to that! I also teach private piano lessons, and I play the piano for some classes in the Arts In Education program through Tanner Dance with the University of Utah.

In the circles of my industry that I engage with, I’m known as the “Self-Care Mom” (coined by my friend Chel Wong) because of how much I insist on reminding everyone how wonderful and worthy they are, and how bright their creative spark is. After living so long believing I was worthless, I have found a wonderful avenue in my work to give people the tools they need to believe the truth about themselves: that nothing could ever stain their ability to be worthy and belong.

Self-compassion, boundaries, confidence, belief, and creative expression are so impactful and accessible to each of us. Everyone deserves to know they are enough just because they exist and to have someone remind them of that when they forget. I have a bi-monthly podcast that I upload on YouTube called “Inspiration Station” which discusses these tools in depth for anyone who needs that reminder.

A big part of my work right now is helping to build a new non-profit organization that supports women who have been sexually abused in the music industry in film, TV, media, and games. I am the Treasurer of The Female Composer Safety League, and we are working within our community to build a trauma-informed system that will no longer profit from the abuse of power that is currently the status quo.

We envision a music industry free from abuse. From state legislation to one-on-one individual support, what we’re doing is making this industry safe for creativity to thrive, and it’s so exciting. I have been able to meet amazing people and hear heart-wrenching stories, witnessing the light of healing that strides simultaneously with despair.

We know that healing isn’t linear and that it happens through community. Trauma happens in solitude, and we are committed to letting women in music know that they are not alone.

What do you like best about our city? What do you like least?
When we first moved to Utah, I wasn’t expecting to have many opportunities outside of teaching music. How wrong I was, and I’m glad for it. There are so many creative communities here in Salt Lake County, building amazing things together.

Being engaged with groups like the Utah Digital Entertainment Network (UDEN) has allowed me to expand my support circle, and it’s been lovely. Also, I’m still close to the mountains which is an essential part of taking care of my mental health and managing my creative outlets.

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Image Credits
Brad Wiggins

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