The Department of Music is saddened to announce the passing of H. Burton ("Burt") Kester, Lecturer in Flute and Bassoon and director of the Gallery Players, a departmental student performance ensemble. Mr. Kester died around 6 p.m. at his residence at Chambrel of Williamsburg after giving a music lesson on Sunday, April 19. He was 78 years old.
Mr. Kester was born on December 24, 1930. A native of Pennsylvania, he moved with his family to Frederick, Maryland, at an early age. His musical training started in the public schools of Frederick, where he initially studied the flute before expanding to bassoon and clarinet. Thus he began a long career as a professional musician and an expert woodwind doubler. Following high school, Mr. Kester entered the University of Maryland as a music major and became a much sought after flutist and bassoonist with such ensembles as the National Gallery Orchestra, Baltimore theater orchestras, and other professional musical organizations in the Maryland and Washington D.C. areas. At the start of the Korean conflict he left the university and volunteered to serve his country, joining the United States Air Force as a bandsman. After his military service he toured the country with the national company of Fiddler on the Roof, performing over four hundred shows in virtually every state in the union. In the mid-1960s he became principal bassoonist of the Lakeside Summer Symphony in Lakeside, Ohio, and remained with the LSSO for over forty years, serving that august music festival over the years as a musician, conductor of the youth orchestra, personnel manager, and advisor to the Lakeside community.
In 1970 Mr. Kester entered The Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, earning Bachelors and Masters degrees studying under renowned Pittsburgh Symphony bassoonist Arthur Kubey and conducting with NBC Symphony alumnus, Chauncy Kelly. After a short period of free-lance work in Pennsylvania he was offered the Principal Bassoon position in the Norfolk Symphony, an ensemble which soon became the Virginia Symphony Orchestra.
In 1975 Mr. Kester joined the faculty at the College of William & Mary. In his thirty-four years at the college, he served in a multitude of capacities. He taught all types of woodwind instruments and led student ensembles that performed for the college community and throughout the Williamsburg area. He was also a member of the Applied Music Advisory Committee for the Department of Music since its inception.
Mr. Kester is survived by his brother, Art Kester, of Frederick Maryland. An earlier marriage to Jean Stealing, now deceased, ended in divorce. Condolences may be directed to Art and Donna Kester, 5314 Stone Rd., Frederick, MD, 21703. In lieu of flowers, the Kesters have asked for donations to be made in Burt Kester's name to the Susan Jean Kester Bassoon Scholarship at the Department of Music, College of William and Mary (go to http://www.wm.edu/as/music/support/index.php for more information on how to contribute).
The Spring concert of the William and Mary Symphony Orchestra on April 29 at 8:00 p.m. in Phi Beta Kappa Hall was originally intended to honor Burt Kester upon his retirement from the College at the end of the present semester. This performance will be now be dedicated to him in memoriam. His ashes will be dispersed at Lakeside, Ohio, in early August.