Paul Carlson and his violin are making music again.
“I had an illness involving blood clots and was in the hospital for six weeks,” said Carlson, Pittsburg State University music professor emeritus. “Afterward I was very weak. I was able to get some occupational therapy at Via Christi, which helped, and then I came to Carrington Place. At first I was here in the main building, and now I have an apartment here."
He said he’s very grateful that Carrington allows him to give music lessons there.
“They’re so good here,” Carlson said. “I have five students, three on violin and two on viola. If you ever want to encourage older people to take up new interests, Gene Vollen, who was my boss in the PSU music department for 17 years, has taken up viola and is enjoying it very much.”
Carlson is also performing again with the Southeast Kansas Symphony and enjoyed very much the concert presented Thursday in McCray Recital Hall.
“In music, and academia generally, you can be as active or inactive as you want,” he said.
He grew up in Chicago, and started his violin studies with a neighborhood teacher.
“Then, at the age of 12, I was able to get a marvelous teacher at the Chicago Conservatory,” he said. “The Chicago Orchestra had a training orchestra and I played in that for four years.”
He obtained his bachelor of music from the Chicago Conservatory of Music, a master of music from Northwestern University and a doctor of musical arts from the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri at Kansas City.
Carlson started his teaching career at Messiah College, Grantham, Pa., then taught at Drury College, Springfield, Mo., before joining the PSU faculty in 1965.
“We had a PSU Faculty String Quartet and founded the Waddill Chamber Music Competition which offered opportunities for string, wind and brass players and vocalists to rehearse with and be coached by quartet members,” he said.
Carlson did not confine his performing to the PSU campus, but became well known on the international scene. He was active in Kansas/Paraguay Partners and has played throughout North and South America, Europe and the Orient. He was the first American invited to perform and teach at the Hanoi National Conservatory of Music in Vietnam.
“I’ve also played in Korea, the Peoples Republic of China and Taiwan, and twice in India,” Carlson said. “I developed a hobby of comparative religions and hobbies. What attracted me so much about the Orient is that it’s so different.”
For example, he learned that he should never cross his legs while seated in the Orient.
“It’s unforgivable to point your shoe at somebody,” Carlson explained. “And here we make over babies, but in Vietnam you should never do that. They believe that it could make the spirits surrounding the baby jealous, and then they might make the baby sick.”
Page 2 of 2 - His globe-trotting may be more limited in the future, but he believes that Pittsburg has much to offer.
“There are so many things of an interesting nature happening in Pittsburg, and the university is the haven for many of them,” Carlson said. “Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium is also a wonderful place that attracts a lot of people to the community.”
He’s also enjoying his time at Carrington.
“When a new person comes in, they send a photo around so people will know who you are, and then you’re walking down the hall and you hear, ‘Hi, Paul, how are you today?’” he said. “It’s a very friendly place.”
A highlight are conversations with Joseph Grady Smoot, former PSU vice president of development and special advisor to the PSU president.
“We were on the board of the Friends of Timmons Chapel together, and we’ve had some wonderful conversations here,” Carlson said.
All in all, he has come a long way since his illness, and it’s been a good journey.
“I’ve recovered and I have no pain,” Carlson said. “I’ve found that the older I get, the more grateful I get.”