As the daughter of Professor Dr. Edwin L. Carstensen, a biomedical engineer in University of Rochester, NY, Dee was influenced by her father and his musical talent on piano and clarinet. Dee and her four siblings began to take music lessons, with Dee first playing piano.
At the age of eight, Carstensen was selected as one of five children tapped by the Eastman School of Music's experimental program to study harp with a classical harpist from the New York Philharmonic. Although the program only lasted one year, Dee studied the harp for nine. She also developed an interest in singing and songwriting, which eventually caused her to move from the conservatory path to a career as a singer-songwriter.
As a singer-songwriter
Carstensen's singing and songwriting talents were discovered by vibist Mike Mainieri, who became her husband in 1993. Her debut album Beloved One, released in 1993, included guitar work by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits.
Her second album, Regarding the Soul (1995), integrated her singing, songwriting and harp-playing. The Map (1998) was a collaboration with Mainieri. Their first child, Ruby Anna, was born on November 19, 2000.
Dee also recorded a children's album, Can You Hear Lullaby (2001), which featured guest vocals Everett Bradley, Curtis King and Julie Dansky and instrumental work by her husband.
Patch of Blue
Dee went back into the studio and recorded a solo album, Patch of Blue, which was released in 2005. Unlike previous work, all eight songs were originals, except Fly Away whose music was co-written with her husband who played vibraphone on the album. Patch of Blue did not include any guitar work. Instead, it featured Dee's harp and vocals, with backing from the Tosca String Quartet  and several woodwind players.
Impact on harp music
Dee was the first pop singer to participate in the Lyon & Healy Jazz and Pop Harp Festival (1999), sharing the stage with jazz harpists Park Stickney and Deborah Henson-Conant. Dee plays a Lyon & Healy electric harp in her recordings and live performances. Her incorporation of harp in singer-songwriter and pop music also influenced the new generation of young singer-songwriter-harpists, such as Joanna Newsom and Habiba Doorenbos.
- Beloved One (NYC Records, 1993)
- Regarding The Soul (Exit Nine/Universal Music, 1995)
- The Map (Exit Nine/Universal Music, 1998)
- Home Away From Home (Live Album, Exit Nine/Universal Music, 1999)
- Patch of Blue (Exit Nine/Universal Music, Released on November 2005)
- Other music: Sci-fi series VR-5, Episode 6. The music was created by composer John Frizzell. Dee Carstensen and Eileen Frizzell provided the vocals in the opening theme. See VR-5 entry.