Dr. Carlsen knew me from birth; he treated me and my children with such love and kindness as family. From the early years, I mostly remember his calming and encouraging voice challenging me to think critically. I ended up at Whitman for college when the Carlsens paused hosting international students in order to be available for me. We shared meals, escapes from the Whitman bubble, a place for me to take root while finding out how to be on my own.
For graduation, Dr. Carlsen made me a pendant of the iconic campus memorial building clock overlooking campus. I didn’t really understand at the time, but as a mother now, I can’t express the eternal gratitude I have for their presence throughout my life. After college I moved to the east coast and got updates through my fathers’ annual trips to Walla Walla.
Almost 8 years ago, we returned to Seattle and I started accompanying my dad for Spring release weekend festivities which included visiting Dr. Carlsen. My most recent memory is him giving my two daughters rides around the paths at Wheatland on his lap, powered by his wheelchair.
His ear to ear grin and belly laugh with the kids is such a great example of his love for life and others.
I am grateful that I had a chance to know him. Our whole family misses him deeply.
—Tricia (Kauffman) Winters
What a lovely memorial service for a lovely human being. Kurt and I cherished our interactions and conversations with James during the 3 years my mother lived at Wheatland overlapping with James' time there. He was simultaneously interesting himself and interested in others . . . always gracious. Despite our brief friendship, he will always be close to my heart. He obviously left an amazing legacy in the body of his work, art, children, and grandchildren. Wrapping my arms around the entire family with love.
Through my husband Glenn, a colleague of Jim's in the Systematic Musicology Department, I received the wonderful gift of friendship that MaryBaird and James offered. If their rich lives can be condensed into one word I suggest LOVE. They loved life and embraced the joys and opportunities that each day and each successive decade offered. They loved each other devotedly and loved the children, grandchildren of their own and extended family. I feel as if I know many of you in their family because of the stories they told proudly. They were devoted “wordsmiths,” precise and articulate in their respective fields; music was the shared language.
I believe that “nothing is ever lost” when a life leaves a void for us, and you as a family individually and collectively offered proof of how their gifts remain. Thank you for your meaningful and genuine tribute to your father. Those gifts and your memories remain embedded even though they have each gone on to that mystical place beyond our earthly understanding. Rest in peace, my friend Jim.
I will always remember Jim Carlsen as an academic trailblazer and a very affirming, compassionate educator. I recall feeling very stressed and telling him that a 10 week quarter just wasn’t long enough to fully grasp the material he’d presented in a graduate seminar on psychomusicolgy. He calmly told me to review my notes prior to the exam and “trust the learning process.” He was right. I am grateful to have studied with him during my time in the Systematic Musicology program at the UW.
For over 20 years, James and I had adjoining offices in different locations in the School of Music. Our lives intertwined in countless visits, events, and projects for which I am grateful. His influence on me is incalculable. He taught me so much. James also developed an environment in which so many of us thrived. We interacted together as colleagues and students - and became family and friends. His sense of humor, kindness, patience and insight were consistent. He expected my best, but helped me fix my offerings. He celebrated my enthusiasms and encouraged my creativity, while managing to deal kindly with my differences. I wear the silver ring he made for me most every day. My love and respect for him has worn so very well over my lifetime. I am deeply grateful for our friendship; for James’ presence in my life.
—Barbara R. Lundquist
Although Jim and I were at UW at different times, his legacy was felt every day. His work at the intersection of music education and music psychology was an inspiration and pointed in new directions for the study of music teaching and learning. Both at Washington and here at his alma mater Northwestern, the connections he forged across disciplines continue to enrich scholarly discourse and to enliven the studies of new generations of students.
James was a member of the Walla Walla Noon Rotary Club when I first joined in 2012. He was very kind. I remember him speaking at length of his wife during our lunches together. He gave amazing hugs and I considered him a friend. He will be missed.
I grew up in Okanogan, a town of 2001 population in Washington, not too far from the Canadian border. The first time I met Dr. Carlsen at the University of Washington, I was immediately struck by his kindness and gentle, direct conversation. Also, something felt comfortingly familiar about his idiolect. I asked him if he grew up in Eastern Washington. His sweet reaction of surprise and admission gave me a sense of confidence and trust. He was a wonderful mentor and educator for many people.
For the time I knew James I thought he was such a smart, funny, kind hearted man. I was always happy to see him and his big smile. I loved all the stories he would tell me. He will be greatly missed.
I first met Jim in 1964, when we served together on the Music Education Research Council of MENC. I believe he was already a member when I joined the group. I remember being impressed by his background and experience, and I quickly came to admire him for his knowledge, his willingness to share, and his sense of humor. We soon discovered that we were both enthusiastic members of ISME. Jim and I worked together with energy and passion on many projects in various settings during the succeeding decades. Though I had not seen him for years, my admiration and affection for Jim has continued to this day.
Beyond his contribution as one of the pioneering researchers in music education, Prof. Carlsen leaves us a legacy rich in finesse and rigorous scientific practice. Many thanks to our founding member and past chair of the ISME Research Committee!
My sincere condolences.
As President of the International Society for Music Education, I would like to extend my condolences to the family on behalf of other ISME members, especially those in the Research Commission who know James Carlsen well. I didn’t know Jim personally, but those that did have told me that he was a superb researcher and magnificent colleague. His legacy will live on in the history of ISME because of his untiring efforts to further develop research internationally. Jim was an Honorary Member of the Research Commission, and many remember his sharp intellect and his support of all who wanted to undertake research in our discipline.
Jim was a superb researcher and magnificent colleague. He was a remarkable pathfinder who helped create research in our area as we currently practice it. His legacy will live on in the history of ISME because of his untiring efforts to further develop research internationally. I only met him a couple of times, but I remember his sharp intellect and his support of all who wanted to undertake research in our discipline.
Jim was a remarkable mentor, gently guiding me into the rigors of thinking like a researcher, which wasn’t always easy. When I ran into some glitches with my dissertation at the final stages, he broke the bad news to me that I had to rerun my data and rewrite the two most significant chapters of my dissertation before I could graduate. I had a brand-new baby and a part-time teaching job. George was away in the legislature so he couldn’t help with Courtnay. Jim was so kind in being open to reading the new drafts and quickly giving me feedback so I could graduate on time.
I loved Jim’s tremendous intelligence and quick wit.
He introduced me to key people in ISME, which led to opportunities in that organization for me to become a leader — more wonderful mentoring. Although he had trained me to be a researcher, I was never at a university that required that kind of scholarship. He generously named my ability to synthesize research and help others to understand. That insight was key in building my confidence as an academic.
I could go on with more stories, but these are some that make me smile. Jim led a long and meaning filled life. He had a distinguished career and deeply influenced people around the world, most significantly his doctoral students, but far beyond us. It is a rare privilege to know people who succeed at that level and yet remain humble. Jim did.
Years ago, when my brother and I were growing up around Storrs, Connecticut, our family became fast friends with the Carlsen family after they moved to the area. Between us Ballards, the Carlsens and our minister’s family, the Stones, we often referred to our trio of friends as “CBS” for the letters starting our last names. When visiting the Carlsen home, all of us kids would play backwards-hide-and-go-seek, where one person would hide in the still-unfinished area of their basement and everyone else would pile nearby once they found him. The best people at hiding were Phil and Doug Carlsen. It still is a great memory thinking about our wonderful friends, and how generous and caring Mr. and Mrs. Carlsen (and the whole family!) was to everyone. We missed them after they went back to the west coast!
Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to meet James in person, but since my involvement with ISME and the Research Commission, he has been always remembered with great appreciation and gratitude by those who had the privilege of knowing him. Now, as co-chair of the Research Commission, this distinction has another dimension and I acknowledge the big responsibility to honor him and those who have worked tirelessly for the RC, ISME, and our discipline.
During our online seminar, there will be a symposium that we will dedicate to the memory of James. AnaLucía, Evelyn Orman (past-chair), Rose Omolo and myself will be there, and it is about the history and global impact of the ISME Research Commission.
We cannot talk about the history of the commission, without acknowledging we are here because of James’s vision and commitment to music education research!
On behalf of the ISME Research Commission, please receive our most sincere condolences. His contribution to ISME and the creation of the Research Commission was remarkable. We are in debt to him. I will share this sad news with the Commissioners, we’ll specially honor his memory.
Dr. James C. Carlsen was a magnificent scholar. Generous, he visited Argentina several times. He taught, advised, oriented me and many others. I learnt a lot — he was a guide even! Best memories of him!
—Ana Lucía Frega
The Generativity of James
by Jan Lawry
Anyone who spent time with James soon learned that he was a consummate storyteller. He fully enjoyed the telling of one of his many stories. These stories were most often about his own experiences that captured something humorous or wise that he wanted to hold onto and share with others. Over the years I came to appreciate that his stories had roots that gave them a deeper meaning than was first seen in the surface details of the events they described. One such story has stayed with me and it became emblematic for what psychologist Erik Erickson labeled “generativity” in his famous psychosocial theory of human development. I n describing the essence of generativity, psychologist Dan McAdams wrote:
It is not enough to make something in your own image. You must care for what you make, nurture and love it, sacrifice yourself for it, and eventually let it go...What we generate becomes a legacy of the self, and we care for that legacy selflessly. (from “The New Definition of Success” appearing in Spirtuality & Health, Fall, 2001)
Some years ago, I worked on creating a deck of self-help cards that would provide people with a tool for looking at issues from multiple perspectives. My cards incorporated many of Erickson’s themes and included a card labeled “Generativity.” The artist who was collaborating with me created an image for this card of a woman helping a child care for a sapling. When I first saw this illustration, I immediately thought of James and one of his stories about growing up in Sunnyside on a small farm in central Washington.
The particular story the generativity card evoked for me was about a tree that stood in the front yard of his family home on the farm. When we first travelled across the state with James and Mary, he pointed out his family homestead from the highway. The small white farmhouse where he had been a boy was at that time almost completely obscured by a large maple tree that stood more than thirty feet high and was nearly as wide. Apparently, James’ grandfather found a young sapling shooting up from the root of an established maple. He dug it up and planted it where it could receive more light. Later when James’ parents had built a new house, he and his mother transplanted the tree in their front yard. James said he was thirteen at the time and he vividly remembered working with his mother that day. The tree had become for him a powerful reminder of all that time period had come to mean in his life. The mature, healthy tree is part of the legacy he, his grandfather, and mother have left in the wake of their lives. Its shade will provide comfort on hot summer days to those who live there for generations to come.
The years James and his family spent on the farm had shaped certain attitudes and values that served him well long after he had left the farm and pursued an academic career. He appreciated the fruit of hard work and understood the importance of nurturing what one wanted to grow. More than any colleague I know, James enjoyed an especially caring and nurturing relationship with his students. Even in retirement, he maintained contact with many of them, and he followed their careers and successes with delight in the same way he appreciated the achievements of his own children and grandchildren.
In thinking about this story of the sapling now, the tree seems to be an apt metaphor for all of what James helped to nurture and create throughout his life. He planted many seeds throughout his career within the members of his family, his friends, his neighbors, his students, and colleagues. These seeds reflected his many passions and deep understanding of what was important to explore and nurture. Many of those ideas and values took root in those of us who gave them fertile ground and continued to nurture them. And like the maple tree in his old front yard, these seeds grew into new forms and have by now taken on a life all of their own.
When my husband David LaBerge and I visited James in his former residence at Wheatland Village, we saw how James had become a key figure in the community there with both the residents and staff. I don’t doubt that he was still telling his stories there even as he was collecting and creating new ones to share. James did as Dan McAdams described. He cared for all he worked to make, he nurtured and loved it, sacrificed for it, and finally when it was time, he let it go. All that James cared for and all the many lives he enriched in myriad ways is the legacy he leaves. May his example help us to learn to be good custodians of what we most treasure and need to pass on.
I arrived at the University of Washington School of Music shortly after my 30th birthday. As the youngest member of the faculty I felt (was!) young and insecure. One of the first persons I met at the School of Music was Jim Carlsen, the head of the Music Education Department. I was nervous but Jim immediately put me at ease. At that first meeting, Jim invited me and my wife and young sons to dinner with him and Mary. I was taken with both Jim and Mary; it was the beginning of a friendship. And from that moment on he was unfailingly supportive, running interference for me with faculty and educators.
Jim was a friend and a mentor and, at least at the beginning, a father figure. His support extended to my development of the TAP system: he was one of the few enthusiastic supports of my initial work. Jim was a member of SONOS, Inc., a corporation that entered into an agreement to market the TAP System. SONOS was a group of musicians and investors that included James Mason (a fellow music dean in Utah) and Warren Hatch (the soon-to-be Senator from Utah). Likely due to Hatch’s political interests, the relationship between TAP and SONOS didn’t work out and ended after a year or two, much to Jim’s disappointment.
If I have any regrets, in looking back, it is that I did not fully appreciate nor fully express my gratitude to those individuals, such as Jim, whose loving support was so essential to my growth and success and happiness. Jim made an enormous difference in my life. I am so grateful to have know him.
Ever so rare are the true gems in life.
These are not the ones you can hold in your hand but hold in your heart. James was that gem--kind and sincerely caring. He was well respected for his intellect and creativity whether through music, art, or cultivation of friendships. James was a fellow Rotary member in my club. I, along with so many, will miss him and cherish his memory.
—Maryann F. Cole
James and I were in Rotary together. I remember his ready smile and gracious nature. Even when he required a walker to get around he still made an effort to attend our meetings. I will miss him.
One of my favorite professors at the UW, Jim was warm, encouraging and had a charming sense of humor! He pushed me to question everything--to think out-of-the box, to “know my sources.” He had keen insight and saw that I was a performer who needed to use more of my brain. Jim had infinite patience with my struggle to master the material and prepare for my master’s degree final examination. In his Psychology of Music course, he drilled into me the importance of “2+1” in concept formation, and much more.
I am married to Grayson, a skeptical scientist, and Jim’s influence helped me to better defend the “science” in my later work in music education, the arts and humanities. Later, I moved into my doctoral program, and continued my teaching of piano and pedagogy, enriched by much of what Jim had offered in his classes and through his mentoring. I believe that my opportunities for teaching, performing and doing research in Africa were enhanced by Jim’s strong influence upon me.
Thank you, Jim. You inspired me to do more!
I have such sweet and loving memories of Uncle James. He was consistently kind, curious, patient, funny and humble. One particular memory is the day of Aunt Mary's memorial service in 2013. During the reception Uncle James circulated around the room talking to people and thanking them for attending. When we went back to Douglas and Mary's home for a family gathering, he sat on the back deck and all eyes and attention were on him. We listened to his stories and memories. Uncle James was surrounded by a circle of love, admiration and gentle caring and he graciously accepted our adoration.
The Hand of Grace
by Hidaat G. Ephrem
It was December 8, 1986, my first day at a new job in the School of Music at the University of Washington. A silver haired man with matching silver beard greeted me in a half-lit office. It was Professor James C. Carlsen, the man who had interviewed me a week earlier for the job — and thus started a calm, steady, guided, nonjudgmental, very professional and yet a fatherly relationship which afforded me to thrive, both professionally and personally.
It might seem like a simple transaction of someone hired to do a job, but for me it was a huge lifeline. I was a new mother to a teenage boy who came from Eritrea, someone I had left behind and now trying to reunite. I did not have much money and, being new to the Seattle area, did not have many friends.
I worked under Professor Carlsen from 1986 until his retirement in 1992. (Yes, to this day I am not able to call him Jim, though he gave me the permission to do so many times. It is a measure of the awe and respect I have for him.)
He saw me through many ups and downs in my personal life as well as growing pains on the job. Just the same, he never forgot birthdays, Secretary’s Day, or Christmas.
He was gracious, humble, generous with his time and ears, respectful without bias, and eager to learn about others.
Soon we started exchanging stories about our families. Oh! How he loved and respected his wife, Mary. He taught me that there are men who actually see women as their equal without trying to be politically correct about it. It was genuine. He gushed about his children — Philip, Douglas, Susan, Kristine — and his grandchildren.
Well, soon, I found a spot to be one of his kids as well. I talked with him about my life, he listened and gave examples of his life without being authoritative about it. The most heartwarming stories were about his mother; he talked about her as though she was still living. One day he walked into the office and in his typical manner said, today is my mother’s 100th birthday. His voice was filled with nostalgia.
That was the embodiment of what Professor Carlsen is to me.
He had a heart filled with love for humanity and what people go through in life. He did not paint himself in any particular shade, he was himself, genuine and real.
I went on to serve the Music Education and Systematic Musicology Department for 17 years and moved on to the Jackson School of International Studies for another 17 years and retired from the UW last year. I built a home in Shoreline, raised my son to be a man now with two small children of his own, but most of all, I thrived in my writing.
At the heart of my life and what I have achieved is the hand played by the silver haired man I still call Professor Carlsen.
Yes, I shed some tears upon hearing his passing, not in sadness, but in fond memories of what he had afforded me in his being a genuine human being. Now, rest easy with your beloved Mary, Professor Carlsen.
I don’t have the words to describe adequately the contributions that Dr. Carlsen made to the field of systematic musicology; I’m certain that they are well known. Instead, I will describe some of my experiences in this tribute to Dr. Carlsen.
In my first class with Dr. Carlsen, he began with one of his classic jokes: (paraphrased) “I can tell the year of the students in the class when I introduce myself. Freshmen don’t pay attention and or seem at all focused. Seniors look and nod. Grad students immediately start taking notes.” I was taking notes. I am very fortunate to have had Dr. Carlsen as a mentor and ultimately a close friend. He mentored me for seven years, guiding me through both a master’s thesis and dissertation. One of his first nuggets of advice, which he relayed with that glint in his eyes, was to save the first draft.
After his retirement and move to Walla Walla, my daughter started at Whitman, and Dr. Carlsen and Mary helped look after her. When I travelled to Walla Walla we would always meet, often breakfast at Clarettes. That is about the point when I started calling him Jim. After my daughter graduated, I visited Walla Walla at least once a year and often twice, for two reasons, Walla Walla wine and Jim and Mary. This has been happening for about the last fifteen years. The schedule for this year in April was cancelled due to the pandemic. I so wish I could have seen him one more time.
Jim, I will miss our visits and your dry jokes. Thank you again for all you’ve done. Rest in peace.
Besides offering me a NDEA Teacher Fellowship to pursue a Masters in Music Education and subsequent scholarships supporting my doctoral studies, James Carlsen introduced me to many influential people and research connections. I treasure my experiences pursuing the Systematic Musicology degree; my professors were stellar, and my student colleagues have been inspirational models ever since then. What a gift.
As a new student at the UW, I served as secretary for the JRME (Journal of Research in Music Education), typing correspondence for Dr. Carlsen (editor) to authors of many articles; I also experienced early programming, creating punch cards in Balmer Hall at the UW--the bulky machines thumping loudly to punch various alphabet and numerical fields, before card stacks were fed to the mainframe computer.
Later, I was encouraged by Dr. Carlsen and thrilled to attend conferences in different countries through the ISME (International Society of Music Education) and the Society for Research in Music conferences—where I presented and learned about others’ research findings. (See photo of James Carlsen, Desmond Sergeant [Britain] , me, and Jonathan Stephens [Scotland] at a dining table in Nagoya, Japan.)
In 2008, My husband Mike and I were able to go to a conference in Bologna, Italy with two other couples, and before departing, we took photos of James and Mary holding our “Squeaky Dave” travel buddy who posed for souvenir photos on this trip.
First, I want to say that what I write can never be adequate—can never reach the level or depth of expression I feel.
While gathering my thoughts for this tribute, I spent over an hour jotting down memories of Jim—memories that reach back to 1971 and extend to the present day—far too many to include here.
I first met Jim at a year-end party for the Prospective Teacher Fellows program that Jim founded. I don’t remember who invited me as I was not involved with the program. (I was then teaching at Sharples Junior High in Seattle.) Somehow that single contact with Jim led to me enrolling in the Systematic Musicology program. He was persuasive!
Jim’s reach was broad and inclusive. This was brought home to me when compiling an email list of SM grads and friends to let them know about Jim’s passing. What a wonderful—and wonderfully diverse—group of people! Judging by the email addresses, his grads have held important positions at colleges and universities around the nation and/or have been involved in other interesting endeavors.
Thanks partially to Jim I had a great career teaching instruments to fourth and fifth grade students, a position Jim’s letter of recommendation helped me get. That led me to found West Seattle Community Orchestras, which grew before the pandemic to include three orchestras, a band, and adult beginning instrument classes. A ripple of continued influence!
The last time I saw Jim I ran into him and Mary in the Virginia Mason cafeteria. Though we hadn’t seen each other for several years, we picked up right where we left off. That was just like them, no preliminaries necessary, no superficial awkwardness. It was a magical conversation!
As many here will attest, Jim’s influence extended well beyond academia and our professions. He was a wonderful role model, a visionary teacher, and a great friend. Thank you, Jim!
James Carlsen had a profound influence on my career and the careers of the others in my program, the Prospective Teacher Fellowship (graduate) Program at the UW from 1969-1971 in string education. Dr. Carlsen was visionary in writing a grant and administrating a program that combined the academic with the practical by forging a relationship between the UW and the Seattle Public Schools. He ably administered this program while carrying on all of his other responsibilities. Typically, even though incredibly busy, he was always available to us.
Across the years, awards for superlative teaching earned by the Fellows are numerous. Four are in Hall of Fame of their State, as well as one who was National Secondary Music Teacher of the Year through the American Federation of High Schools. He would be proud. The Program was revolutionary and has influenced string education for 50 years in Washington and Oregon.
For his support of music education in the State of Washington, he was named to the inaugural class of the Washington Music Educators Association Hall of Fame (1998). I am honored to say his induction happened during my term as President of that organization.
I personally was the recipient of his guidance and support both at the UW and in my career for which I will forever be grateful. My deepest condolences to the family.
—Vicki White Miltun, former Prospective Teacher Fellow and Director of Orchestras for the Mercer Island School District
I was part of the Systematic Musicology program from 1988 to 1995. My mentors were Stu (Stu Dempster, trombone performance), Doug, Barb, and Dr. Carlsen. I could never bring myself to call him anything else.
One thing I recall especially fondly are the Systematic Musicology parties. How enjoyable and stimulating they were! You might remember my children David and Joy, and how they thrived at the parties. Joy essentially learned to crawl at one of them, and spent the entire evening speeding past feet and legs, with her anxious parents close behind (drinks in hand, of course!).
Another important memory is my experience in the Proseminar. When grades came out I found that Dr. Carlsen had given me an incomplete. He was disappointed with my final research proposal, and told me I needed to more clearly articulate theory and how my hypothesis related to it, so that I would be able to relate findings to current knowledge, current theory, and future theory.
He was right, of course, and reformulating my proposal in a way that met his standards was both challenging and salutary. I am grateful.
I am now a professor at Truman State University, where I teach the graduate Introduction to Research class. Dr. Carlsen casts a long shadow. We read his 1994 MENC Senior Researcher Award acceptance address, “The Need to Know,” and adopt its definitions and perspective. I frequently find myself saying things like “Beware of finding what you are looking for!”
And I have embraced his emphasis on theory; even my family recognizes this. My daughter brought me a t-shirt from the University of Chicago. On the front it says “That’s all well and good in practice…” and on the back, “But how does it work in theory?”
The shirt strikes fear into my students’ hearts.
In my teaching I try to install Dr. Carlsen’s lesson that research is a creative process of pursuing truth with appropriate methods and with all the rigor one can muster. I feel I am sometimes successful in this.
Sadly, I think I am less successful in replicating another of Dr. Carlsen’s great achievements: his ability to turn his classes into an invitation to the joy and adventure of research, and especially to the great pleasure of associating with similarly minded scholars.
I think Dr. Carlsen would suggest more parties.
Thank you for the opportunity to honor this wonderful person who has left an indelible mark on me, and on my students.
Dr. James Carlsen was my mentor, colleague, and good friend. The transition to calling him “Jim” instead of “Dr. Carlsen” took a long time given the esteem I held him in as my major professor in the systematic musicology program at the University of Washington. I had the good fortune of being a doctoral student from 1970 to 1973.
I cannot overstate the significance of James Carlsen’s vision for the systematic musicology program at UW. Through his caring mentorship he has influenced the careers and lives of so many students that were fortunate to pass through the program. It certainly influenced my career. My wife, Kay, and two-year-old son were leaving the island of Guam in 1970 after four years teaching at the university. I was all set to start doctoral work at the University of Texas in composition.
However, I had the good fortune to participate in a pre-conference workshop at an MENC conference in Hawaii. Jim was one of the instructors. A few months later I received an invitation to apply to his new program along with the offer of an NDEA Title IV Fellowship. We immediately changed our plans and packed up on Guam and headed for Seattle. Where else could one have an interdisciplinary experience studying music, experimental psychology, and computer science under a curriculum in a school of music in the 1970s.
I’ll share a brief memory of my first semester studying with Professor Carlsen. I wrote a paper for an assignment. When I got the paper back, I was floored by the low grade. To paraphrase Dr. Carlsen, “my long, rambling sentences out did even the writing of Frances Bacon!” This was followed by one of his typically kind and nurturing one-on-one sessions showing me how to write more succinctly. I worked for three days to rewrite the paper and received a revised grade of an A. The writing for the rest of my career was changed and even when drafting this memorial video Jim is sitting on my shoulder saying, “break up those long sentences.”
After completing my doctorate, Jim and I collaborated on various professional activities. One of the most significant was the creation of the Psychomusicology Journal in the 1980s. Around 2009 we were able to transfer the Journal to the American Psychological. All of the articles back to the first volume were digitized in their database. Jim, Jack Taylor, and I co-wrote an article for the now APA-supported Psychomusicology journal. Jack was also an early graduate of Jim’s doctoral program. The article was entitled “Psychomusicology: A program, a journal, and divergent paths” and it was a wonderful autobiographical experience among two former students and their mentor. For the three of us it was an opportunity to be reflective as well as celebratory in bringing together our shared careers harkening back to the systematic musicology program.
I enjoyed visits with James and Marybaird over the years and professional travel. There are many fun anecdotal stories I could share from those travels.
My last opportunity to visit with Jim and Mary was in Walla Walla about 2010. I drove up from a CMS conference in Portland and spent two days with them. This was after Mary’s fall on their anniversary cruise. We had a wonderful visit embraced by the warm friendship they always offered, the subtle bits of humor Jim sprinkles into the conversation, and the intellectual stimulation they naturally generated.
I look back on that last visit, reflecting on the precious times we shared and how important Jim Carlsen was to me personally as a mentor, colleague, and above all a friend. Jim, you will be greatly missed. My condolences to the Carlsen family on his passing.
—David B. Williams (“Dave”)
Jim was instrumental in bringing me to the UW faculty of music in 1989, and I was drawn there in no small part by the rigour of his scholarship and his reputation as a kind and caring colleague. By the 1980s, his publications on questions of music perception and cognition were riding the crest of a wave, and Systematic Musicology had become the jewel in the crown of academic music studies at the UW. I’d come to the right place at the right time, and I was “Husky-proud” to land a post there in Music Education amid the buzz of research he had engineered.
Jim’s program was nationally and internationally known, with a sterling line-up of thoughtful students who were collaborating with him, or whom he guided along in original thought-streams of their own.
I recall Jim as a model of wisdom and grace and a wise sage ever-generous with collegial advice. Jim was a sensitive and supportive elder for me in my early years on the faculty, and I learned the ropes of life on a large university music faculty through his modeling of patience and calm.
Following his departure in 1994 from the School of Music’s Room 31B, I was then moved over to his office (to which I’ve often referred to as the James C. Carlsen Room). His desk became my desk, his bookshelves are now my bookshelves, and his choice of teal-blue paint have been my “surround” for some 25 years hence. I’ve been privileged to know Jim, and to work in the shadow of his greatness, and will continue to be inspired by his model of teaching and research with integrity, honesty, and respect for all.
—Patricia Shehan Campbell
Dignity and Humor
by Peter Jesse Baird
I am saddened by the passing of our dear Uncle James Carlsen, yet am left with so many positive memories of a life well-lived. Growing up as kids of Paul and Charlotte Baird, we didn’t get to see much of our Carlsen cousins beyond the Round Robin letters & photos that circulated for so many years. So my first powerful memory is of Christmas 1965 when we visited in Storrs Connecticut, on route from Stony Point, NY to Austin, Texas during a year of missionary training for our folks and transitions for Tim and me. (Susan and Steve were already in college.) Tim and I skated on the creek behind the house with our Eastern cousins, waited impatiently for the first snow to come (it magically arrived Christmas morning!) and enjoyed the specially shaped Danish pancakes that Uncle James prepared for all of us. I remember thinking that this was a very cool thing for a dad to do, and to this day I take great enjoyment in fixing “Papa-waffles” for our two kids and four grandchildren.
Uncle James mentored me in several other important ways. First of all, he and Aunt Mary were crucial models of change within the extended family — youthful, intellectual and communicative people who had grown beyond the rigid boundaries and conservative tilt of the church, yet still appreciated the values and loved its music and culture.
They were bridges to our generation and shared insights that continue to help me grow and understand our legacies and possibilities.
In a more explicit mentoring, Uncle James gave me some important advice during a trip that Joy and I made with mother Charlotte to see James and Ruth, Douglas and Mary in Washington, in July of 2001. We stayed in Mary’s family cabin at lovely Elk Lake. I was just about to start my first year as tenure track faculty at Sacramento State University and was pretty apprehensive. Among other things, Uncle James shared with me, “Your Grandpa Jesse told me, when I started my career, that politics is the lubrication that keeps the academic machine running. You can’t be consumed by it, but you can’t avoid it either.” These words coming from the politically savvy Jesse via James turned out to be prophetic, though I admit that I ended up being more consumed by departmental fights than I should have.
The last few years have provided much needed times to get to know and love our Carlsen cousins and Uncle James even more. The Tahoe reunions, Aunt Mary’s memorial in Walla Walla that Joy has summarized so well, the reunion on Mt. Tam to scatter the ashes and put Aunt Margie to rest in Oakland, and the trip Susan and I made to visit in summer 2018 that was so graciously hosted by Douglas and Mary. All brought into clearer focus this wonderful man we now honor and fondly remember.
He certainly taught us how to keep a sense of dignity and humor about growing older and more challenged in health, characteristics we can emulate during this pandemic and beyond.