Karen Roben is being remembered as a passionate, dedicated and selfless member of the Border community.
Ms Roben, 55, died of cancer last Thursday.
Born in Wagga in 1959, she grew up with her five brothers and three sisters at the city’s agricultural college where her father, John, worked as a chef.
He and his wife Ria had immigrated to Australia from Holland after World War II.
Ms Roben attended Mount Erin Catholic Girls College where she developed her love of singing, entering eisteddfods with her sisters.
After a few years in New Zealand, she moved to Sydney to attend a nursing course and gave birth to her son Teal in 1984.
She later returned to Wagga to study education at Charles Sturt University.
In 1998, she moved with Teal to Wangaratta to study music performance at TAFE and became heavily involved in the area’s music scene.
She moved to Albury in 2005 where she met her partner Jack Jensen.
Ms Roben threw herself into the community, creating the Murray Music Club and taking up management and co-ordinator positions at Murray Arts and Wodonga Council.
She was the Albury Applause Festival artistic director from 2011 to 2012 and, notably, served as the Yackandandah Folk Festival creative director from 2007 to 2010, moving to the area in 2012.
Friend Chris Pidd, who worked with Ms Roben at Murray Arts, said she was instrumental in growing the Border’s music scene.
“It was always how can we connect with these people, how can we get them to work together, how can we get them to tell their story,” he said.
This was most evident in her founding of the Musicability Albury-Wodonga Wild Choir for people with disabilities in 2006.
And it carried through right up until her death with Vital Voices, a 30-member choir she founded promoting women’s well-being, some of whom have cancer.
“She didn’t sit and wallow,” Mr Pidd said. “It was so lovely that she got through the last Yackandandah Folk Festival.”
Yackandandah musician Pete Denahy said it was inspiring watching Ms Roben work with the Wild Choir.
“The Karen Roben I knew was a self-less person,” he said. “She was the type of person who got stuff done.”
Mr Denahy said even on her deathbed, she was encouraging him and asking him about his music.
The festival’s co-founder Di Shepheard described Ms Roben as warm, generous and humble, with friends and connections from all over the region.
“She changed community music and singing in the North East,” she said.
Her son Teal said he’d remember his mother as someone who lived life to the fullest and drew people in around her.
Ms Roben was survived by her son Teal and her partner Jack Jensen.