Member Making a Difference: Ray Carlsen, MD

Members Making a Difference

Dermatologist Ray Carlsen, MD, helps foster passion for music in needy students.

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As a dermatologist with a passion for music and not as much time as he’d like to devote to his own playing, Ray Carlsen, MD, of Bellevue, Wash., decided 10 years ago that he could best pass on his love of the cello by loaning top-quality instruments to talented music students in need. He formed the non-profit Carlsen Cello Foundation, to help students go to the nation’s top conservatories, including the Juilliard School, the Peabody Institute, and the Curtis Institute of Music.

“It’s an extreme pleasure to hear what benefits these instruments have made to students who are able to go into competitions and school auditions with an instrument they have trust in and that’s able to perform. I get letters from those students, and it keeps me going. I know this is money well spent.”

  • The foundation was spurred by Dr. Carlsen learning from his cello instructor about the number of talented students unable to progress because they could not obtain a quality instrument. What began as Dr. Carlsen loaning out cellos soon became a full-fledged nonprofit with more than 70 instruments loaned out nationwide at any one time.
  • “We’ve had more than 100 students pass through the program. Many of the early instruments are still loaned out to students who have been playing them for years.” 
  • Dr. Carlsen has bolstered the foundation’s holdings by visiting London. A private antique instrument dealer helped him identify and purchase instruments (for about $5,000 each) that could be restored (for another $3,000-$4,000) and played at top-flight performance. Dr. Carlsen purchased the instruments, had them restored, and donated them to the foundation.
  • “We don’t insist that prospective students plan to be a professional artist. We just want to see their love for the music. The two big requirements are that they all have instruction, and that they not be able to afford an instrument on their own. We have had students drop out, naturally, but a really high percentage end up going to conservatories. My hope is that the more publicity the foundation gets, the more people will find it in their hearts to help support what we’re doing.” 

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