In the mid 1970’s, Ray studied Art, and violin performance at the University of Lowell in Massachusetts. At the suggestion of one of his professors, who noticed his exceptional woodworking abilities, Ray decided to take courses at the University of Rhode Island. There he studied bow repair and rehairing with Arnold Bone, and violin repair with Hans Nebel. At the suggestion of Hans Nebel, he then traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah to study violin making with Peter Paul Prier at the Violin Making School of America. During that time and after graduating, Ray worked in violin shop at Peter Priers for two years doing repairs and restorations.
In 1983, Ray traveled back to Massachusetts to develop the violin making program at the North Bennett Street School in Boston and work as the program’s founding teacher. During the four years that he taught at NBSS, he continued making and restoring stringed instruments. Since leaving NBSS, he has maintained his own shop and no longer does repairs and restorations.
Raymond Melanson’s violins have been distinguished by 14 awards given at competitions of the Violin Society of America. Three of them silver medals for tone. Most recently, he won a Gold Medal for tone at The 2012 Art of Sound International Completion. During his 38 years as a violin maker, he has built over 355 instruments, 92 of them cellos. His instruments are owned by musicians all over the world, many of them by well-known soloists, musicians in major orchestras, and recording artists.