Gospel guitarist Richard Kiser will be hosting his 21st annual Father’s Day Concert on June 17 at Living Well Church in Salem.
Each year Kiser holds the Father’s Day Concert to benefit a cause or charity dear to his heart. This year the proceeds will go to “Mayor’s Military Kids,” an organization that raises funds to provide educational scholarships for children of active duty servicemen and wounded veterans. The group is a ministry of the nonprofit Renewanation.
Kiser has long been a supporter, sponsor, and spokesman for Renewanation, which had its inception at Parkway Christian Academy in Vinton. The organization was formed with the vision of seeing culture transformed by offering millions of children a Christian worldview, supporting and expanding Christian schools, homeschools, and ministries reaching students in non-Christian schools. It began locally and has now spread nation-wide.
“Mayor’s Military Kids” provides funding for fully accredited Christian education for military children, “lifting the load of K-12 educational challenges for military families.”
Children of active military personnel often move many times during their K-12 school years. Educational excellence and costs vary greatly from place to place. The “Mayor’s Military Kids” program provides funding so that these children can receive high-quality Christian education wherever they go. The education provided by the group may be in a Christian school or in the home through online or traditional curriculum.
In addition, the organization recognizes that often the children of wounded warriors are suddenly uprooted to be close to their parent who is living in a military hospital. The burden of schooling in a strange city or trying to homeschool while taking care of a wounded spouse becomes overwhelming for the “well” parent.
Sgt. 1st Class Brian “Mayor” Keaton founded the “Mayor’s Military Kids” program in 2015 as the result of injuries he received in tours of duty in Iraq, where he experienced the shock of a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Keaton ended up in Walter Reed Medical Center after experiencing seizures and many other problems that come with TBI and PTSD. His children were suddenly uprooted from the comfort of their school, and his wife struggled to homeschool them, while at the same time helping take care of her husband.
Keaton faced the reality that he would have to retire from the military. He was determined to do something with the rest of his life that would help the children of military parents handle the educational challenges that come with military life. When he started thinking about how he could best help the children of military parents, he chose to partner with Renewanation.
Richard Kiser is from the Salem area and plays in the “finger-picking” style of his hero, Chet Atkins. When he was 13, he began teaching himself to play guitar. When he was 16, he dedicated his life to Jesus Christ and began playing with a gospel singing group. In the late ’60s and early ’70s he traveled across the country playing lead guitar for a gospel group. Once his third son was born, he felt led to stop touring and become a full-time father and husband.
Kiser said that for the next 25 years he devoted himself to playing at his local church, plus some occasional studio session work. In the early ’90s he started touring again as a solo concert guitarist, sharing his testimony and ministry in a variety of venues including not just churches, but dinner theaters, sportsmen’s banquets, RV resorts, seniors’ ministries, and public schools.
During his career, he has won over 70 major awards including “Instrumentalist of the Decade” from the International Country Gospel Music Association. He is a three-time recipient of the “Artist of the Year” from the Country Gospel Music Association in Branson, Mo., and was inducted into its Hall of Fame.
His current concert schedule involves performing over 125 concerts a year in the United States and Europe. He is a guest each year of the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society in Nashville. He has performed with Roy Clark, Charlie McCoy, Boots Randolph, Phil Driscoll, the Oak Ridge Boys, Barbara Fairchild, and other southern gospel and contemporary Christian groups. He is a popular recording artist around the world as well.
When Kiser appeared last spring at the Gospel Music Fest in Vinton, he caught the attention of many who attended with a unique instrument he brought along for the performance– his 1968 Ford Thunderbird muffler guitar. The instrument smokes– literally. A fog machine attached to the guitar sends clouds of smoke out of the tailpipe while he is playing.
Kiser said he uses the muffler guitar as a “hook,” especially with school students around the country when he is sharing his ministry.
This year’s concert in Salem will feature a special guest, Evan Twitty, who is a renowned guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, and leader and director of the band “Wood and Wire.” He has been named “Instrumentalist of the Year” and “Teenage Performer of the Year” by the International Country Gospel Music Association in Branson.
Other performers will include Kiser’s “Wire Choir,” made up of about 50 guitarists playing on stage at once, and “Guitars for Vets,” a group of veterans, many of whom suffer from PTSD, who are learning to play guitar as music therapy.
Kiser, an Army veteran of the Vietnam era, teaches guitar to the veterans at the Salem VA when he is not touring. These two local groups will combine on-stage at the concert.
Doors will open at 6 p.m. for the Father’s Day concert. The concert begins at 7. Tickets are not required, but a $10 donation is suggested at the door. Living Well Church is located at 4335 West Main Street in Salem. Funds raised will be used locally.
Kiser says not only will the show “be for a great cause, but it is a fantastic show as well.” The program will be mostly gospel, “good music and a tribute to Dads, whether they are vets or not.”