Professor passes away after battle with illness

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April 28, 2009

2:47 AM

College of William and Mary music lecturer H. Burton Kester died at home Sunday, April 19. Kester had planned to retire at the end of the academic year. He was 78 years old.

A lecturer in flute and bassoon, Kester was also the director of the Gallery Players student ensemble. During his 34 years at the College, Kester taught a wide variety of woodwind instruments and directed many student groups.

According to Jordan Elton ’12, who is taking beginner flute lessons this semester, Kester was a great instructor.

“He was a good professor. I learned a lot from him,” he said.

Kester’s health began to deteriorate this semester, and he missed several classes due to frequent visits to the hospital.

Nevertheless, Kester remained silent about his medical condition to his students.

“He never talked about what his problems were,” Elton said.

Born in 1930, Kester began his musical education in the Maryland public school system, where he studied the flute, bassoon and clarinet.

He majored in music at the University of Maryland and went on to perform as a flutist and bassoonist with several musical organizations, including the National Gallery Orchestra and other theater orchestras in Baltimore.

Kester volunteered to serve in the Korean War as a U.S. Air Force bandsman. Following his military service,
Kester toured the United States with the company of “Fiddler on the Roof” and became principle bassoonist of the Lakeside Summer Symphony Orchestra in Lakeside, Ohio. Kester remained in the LSSO for 40 years.
In the 1970s, Kester received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, now known as Carnegie Mellon University.

He was then offered an instrumentalist position with the Norfolk Symphony, now known as the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, as a bassoonist.

Kester was hired by the College in 1975 and has been teaching ever since.

The William and Mary Symphony Orchestra’s Spring Concert April 29 is dedicated to Kester. The performance was originally intended to honor his retirement from the College.

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