Places & Faces
First Person with Chester Daigle
5/30/2018 10:46:06 PM
Chester Daigle

Chester Daigle has been entertaining Southwest Louisiana audiences for half a century, starting as a young boy at his family’s church, Reeves CME Temple. Throughout the years, he was involved with numerous local bands, was active as a musician with the Louisiana pageant scene, and worked as an accompanist for Off-Broadway theater productions. Daigle and his wife Pat wrote music for the Gospel Music Workshop of America New Music Department and served as worship leaders for several area churches. He’s played with some of the biggest names in the entertainment business, including Spyro Gyra, James Brown, Paul Anka, Stanley Turentine, and more.

As much as Chester loves to play music, he also enjoys helping other performers succeed and mentoring young musicians. He and Pat founded the local non-profit educational foundation ‘Jazz in the Arts’ in 2011. Since then, a couple hundred youth have benefited from their scholarship program, workshops, summer camps, and internships. 

Family and fatherhood are also key components of Daigle’s life. He and Pat parent a blended family of four sons and a daughter. Leonard and DeMarcus work in local industries. Their daughter Jazzelynn works in the musical entertainment and consulting business. And their two youngest, Chester III and Jairus, are musicians.

On a December morning in 2007, Daigle awoke and was unable to see. But blindness couldn’t stop him from doing what he loves – making music. He has also suffered kidney failure followed by a successful kidney transplant, and battled cancer and won. Currently, he says he is healthy and doing well.

Thrive magazine sat down with Mr. Daigle recently, where he talked about fatherhood, adjusting to life after the loss of his sight, and his impressive career in the music industry.

What was your childhood like, growing up in Lake Charles? 
It was sort of normal, except for the fact that I started playing piano at the age of eight. I spent time outside, played ball like everyone else, but probably not as much because I was often in the house practicing. My father owned a janitorial and maintenance service, so me and my siblings (three sisters and a brother now deceased) all started working for him at a young age. He said, "I won’t give you an allowance, but I can give you a job.”

When did you first realize you wanted to be a musician? 
I’m not sure – music kind of molded into a career for me. From my very first piano lesson, I loved it. But at eight years old, you’re not thinking about a career. I was a science geek. In my bedroom, instead of posters of baseball and football players, I had astronomical charts, Apollo paraphernalia, and a microscope. After I started taking piano lessons, I played at church. At my high school senior awards ceremony, I won every music award the school had to offer. I remember they had to get a little wagon for me to cart home my trophies from the ceremony. When that happened, I realized there was something to this. I attended Northeast Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana at Monroe) and graduated with a degree in Music Theory and Composition. I started getting requests to play music at events, and the career came out of that. Just about everything I’ve done has been a matter of opportunity. I’ve never auditioned for a job.

On December 28, 2007, you woke up and couldn’t see. What was that like? 
It was really scary. When I first woke up that morning, I opened my eyes, and it was dark. I sat on the side of the bed, tried to look around, but I couldn’t see anything. My first thought was, "Am I dead?” I called out to my wife and she answered, so I knew I was alive. Initially, the doctors were confused. I went to five different doctors. They eventually diagnosed the cause of my blindness as a stroke because they didn’t know what else to say. I didn’t leave my room for days because I didn’t know what to do. For most blind people not blind from birth, it comes on gradually and they have time to prepare. I didn’t have that. But it was like a reset button. I remember one day, a message came from God saying fear and faith can’t occupy the same space. After that, it was time to get up and make some changes. It was a new day, time to start over.

You have a special bond with your children. Tell me about those relationships. 
There’s a lot of love! All of my children are different; our conversations are different. Some ask me for advice, some don’t. But I try to keep everything fair and on the same plane. They’re all grown now so it’s a matter of encouragement without infringement. Two Bible scriptures guide me as a father: As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15) And, a house divided against itself cannot stand. (Matthew 12:25)

What does it mean to you to know you’ve instilled a love of music in some of your children, to play music with them, and watch them grow musically? 
We raised our children to follow their heart. Decide what you want to do and do it. So, the fact that they want to do music is fantastic. But I don’t hold anything back. When Chester III and Jairus decided they wanted to do music, I told them, "You’re going to love it because you love music, but you’re going to have to work hard. This is not a substitute for an 8-5 job – it’s actually harder.”

You can play most any type of music. What is your favorite genre? 
Jazz, by far. Classical music is based on musical interpretation. Jazz is the opposite. It’s improv and emotion. Jazz takes all the other genres and throws them into a big pot.

What’s next for Chester Daigle? 
I have stacks of songs I’ve written, but I’ve never done anything with them. I’ve never published anything as a solo artist, but rather enjoy helping other people on their projects. But I think I’m at a place where I’d like to start releasing some of my own work.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Allow your calling to find you. Allow that desire to inspire and prepare you. Then allow the pursuit of your calling to become your life’s journey.

Where can you hear Chester Daigle play these days?
  • Cypress Grill at Gray Plantation for Sunday Brunch, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. 
  • Rikenjaks Sunday evenings, 7:00 to 10:00 p.m.
  • La Truffe Sauvage, Tuesdays, 7:00 p.m.
  • Ember Bar and Grille, L’Auberge, 6:00 – 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays.
  • His band City Heat performs for private engagements. "Weekends are a toss-up,” says Daigle. "We never know what’s coming.”

For more information on Jazz in the Arts, go to jazzinthearts.com or call 337-794-5744.
Posted by: Angie Kay Dilmore | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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