Karen Ervin Pershing graduated from the University of Southern California, where she studied with Earl Hatch, William Kraft, and Mitchell Peters. In 1975, she received her Masters Degree in Composition from the University of Arizona.
A prize winner in two European competitions (Concours Internationale d'Execution Musicale in 1972 and Concours Internationale de Musique Contemporaine in 1974), she had an active musical career, first as a clinician and soloist and then as a freelance musician in the Los Angeles area.
Karen served as a member of the percussion faculty at California State University, Northridge from 1976 until 2004, where she taught numerous students who continued on to distinguished performing careers. From 1996 to 2004 she owned Studio4Music, a company dedicated to the publication of high-quality percussion performance sheet music.