Alisa Weilerstein

There were two milestones in Alisa Weilerstein’s childhood that were to have life-long repercussions: when she was four years old she began to play the cello, and when she was nine years old she was diagnosed with diabetes.  In the years since, Ms. Weilerstein, who is now 26, has become a sought-after soloist and recitalist, performing around 100 concerts each year around the world.  Her performance and travel schedule would challenge any young performer. That Ms. Weilerstein maintains such a busy schedule while managing her diabetes 24 hours a day, seven days a week makes her an excellent example of how diabetes does not mean curtailing ambition, a message she aims to spread in her new role as a Celebrity Advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

Ms. Weilerstein speaks publicly about juvenile diabetes (also known as type 1 diabetes) for the first time via a website video message recorded to mark World Diabetes Day 2008 on Friday, November 14.  World Diabetes Day is part of National Diabetes Awareness month with this year’s focus on diabetes in young children and adolescents.  The message is available to view on the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation website, www.jdrf.org and Ms. Weilerstein’s website, www.alisaweilerstein.com.  Ms. Weilerstein will also be involved with the various chapters of JDRF when she tours.

Juvenile or type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person's pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. Type 1 diabetes is a disease which strikes children and adults suddenly and requires multiple injections of insulin daily or a continuous infusion of insulin through a pump. Insulin, however, is not a cure for diabetes, nor does it prevent its eventual and devastating complications which may include kidney failure, blindness, heart disease, stroke, and amputation.

In her new role as a Celebrity Advocate Ms. Weilerstein, who was recently described by New York magazine as “arguably Yo-Yo Ma’s heir apparent as sovereign of the American cello,” will work with  JDRF to increase awareness of juvenile diabetes and to promote finding a cure.

“I am proud to be an advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and I am extremely hopeful that I will see a cure for diabetes in my lifetime.  In the meantime I want to speak about my own experience and hope to show young people with diabetes that you can do everything you want to do.”

Karen Brownlee, National Director, Foundation Relations for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, said: “We are honored to have Alisa in the vanguard of JDRF’s advocacy efforts for increased Federal funding of diabetes research, and are in her debt for being such a positive role model for the many, many children living with type 1 diabetes.”

Ms. Weilerstein monitors her blood sugar levels with the aid of a continuous glucose monitoring device and receives regular infusions of insulin through a pump.  When performing, Ms. Weilerstein wears the pump on her leg with garter-like strap she calls her “Bond girl device.”

Later this month (SUBS: November) Ms. Weilerstein will perform Penderecki’s Cello Concerto No. 2 with the New York Philharmonic and conductor Lorin Maazel at Avery Fisher Hall on Thursday, November 20 at 7:30 pm, Friday, November 21 at 11:00 am and Saturday, November 22 at 8:00 pm.  She will also perform her debut recital at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday, December 9 at 7:30 pm.  Ms. Weilerstein also performs in recital in Elkins Park, PA (December 6, Reform Congregation of Keneseth Israel), San Francisco (December 11, San Francisco Performances at Herbst Theatre) and Madison, WI (December 13, Wisconsin Union Theatre). The 2008-09 concert season also includes Ms. Weilerstein’s debut performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in March 2009 and Chicago Symphony Orchestra in June 2009 as well as numerous other orchestral, recital and festival appearances throughout the United States and Europe.

For more information about World Diabetes Day please visit www.worlddiabetesday.org.