by Ray Carlsen, Founder
The beginnings of the Foundation date from 1990 when I was still taking lessons from Richard Aaron, who is now in Ann Arbor and at The Juilliard School. At that time I found that several excellent students of Aaron were attempting to play on inferior instruments. Yet they had no alternative, the reason being that better cellos are expensive. Having learned that no one wished to listen to my own playing, but happy to ‘stay in the business’, I was encouraged to loan a couple of instruments. It was not difficult to find students that were eager to try something better. Finally, to access larger numbers of cellos, in the 1990′s I traveled several times to London, specifically to visit the string auctions at Sothebys, Phillips, and Christies. At these auctions I was able to select (with help) and purchase a number of instruments, many from the 19th and early 20th centuries. These are now much harder to find. I trained at Carrabba Violins in Seattle so that I could know minor repairs; but fine and important restoration remained with luthiers at that shop and other violin shops in Seattle. At the same time applications were beginning to arrive more frequently and repaired cellos were being distributed. Around 2000 we applied for and received 501c(3) status, a charitable designation from the IRS. We have maintained that status, enabling donors to make gifts, including instruments, on a tax-deductible basis to the Foundation. To date we have loaned cellos to over one hundred students with 75-80 currently on loan to students in Seattle, Washington State, and across the entire country. Our basic mission remains simple: to make excellent cellos available to serious and talented students who could not otherwise access a quality instrument.
About the Angel: Audrey Carlsen, Ray Carlsen’s daughter, drew the Foundation angel when she was about 10 years old. For many years, each letter informing a student that they would receive a cello had a personally-drawn version of this angel on the envelope.