Sunday, September 7, 2008

Meet Charles Kester, Piano Entertainer

By Rick Runion
The Ledger

Published: Saturday, September 6, 2008 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 6, 2008 at 10:55 p.m.

Charles Kester, 73, has been playing piano since he was 8 years old and stills plays every day for his own enjoyment.

RICK RUNION | THE LEDGER

CHARLES KESTER has been playing the piano since he was 8. Now he's 73.

" I love music, that's all there is to it"

Kester, who was born in Yeddo Indiana in 1935, is the subject of this month's "Ageless Aging" series. Through this special project, Ledger videographer Rick Runion provides a look at older adults who have gifts and dreams they refuse to give up.

Kester has been married to Linda for 54 years and has two children, son Larry Kester of Lake Wales and daughter Jane Stringfellow of Winter Haven.

Kester worked for the railroad for 43 years and starting as a telegraph operator.

The Kesters started spending the winters in Polk County in the 1990s and moved here full-time in 2002.

Kester doesn't read music but plays by ear. He has his own system of writing cords symbols, which helps him remember the key of the music he plays.

In the 1950s, Kester and his fellow musicians in Indiana began playing nursing homes and found out senior adults liked the same music he liked and says he is "not much up on the new music". Some 50 years later Kester is still playing senior facilities and does not charge for his performances.

"My pay is they come up afterward, or you can go and shake their hand and (they) tell you they enjoyed it. That to me is the reason I do it".

He passes out song books and calls his act "Sing along with Charlie".

His audiences sing along with the songs of the 1930s and 1940s.

"They call out numbers and away we go".

He says that even Alzheimer patients remember words to songs when they can't remember a lot of things: "That's one of the good things".

Kesters even throws in jokes, "so it's more of a show than it is straight music all the way.

"If you can make them smile or sing along with you, that's what I was meant to do, I really feel that."

This story appeared in print on page D1. http://www.theledger.com/article/20080906/NEWS/809070301/1057/YOURTOWN12&title=Meet_Charles_Kester__Piano_Entertainer

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