Earl Taylor is a tenor and professional recitalist who, at age 76, continues to perform in venues across the country.
But every fall for the past three years, he’s made plans to appear at one local event, for the sake, not of music, but of health.
Taylor, 76, takes his wife, Lelia, and their two daughters — their two sons live out of town — to one of the free screenings for kidney disease, offered in this area this month and next by the National Kidney Foundation.
“It’s vital,” Taylor said of the screenings.
Taylor was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and hypertension about 10 years ago, he said. He manages his health with diet, exercise and medication, and wants to monitor his kidney health.
He and his family have been getting good reports at the screenings, he said.
The free health screenings are part of the National Kidney Foundation’s “Kidney Early Evaluation Program” (KEEP), designed to identify and educate people at risk for kidney disease: those with diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of those conditions or kidney disease.
High blood pressure or hypertension, one of the risk factors for kidney disease, is often called a “silent killer,” because it typically has no symptoms until it’s severe, according to the National Kidney Foundation.
One in nine adults has chronic kidney disease, according to the foundation.
The disease includes conditions that damage the kidneys and decrease their ability to do their job of removing wastes from the blood.
When kidney disease progresses, it may lead to kidney failure, which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant for the person to survive, according to the NKF.
Taylor retired in 2008 after 35 years as the director of a statewide literacy program called “Reach and Teach.”
In addition to his professional concert career, he’s a member of two music ensembles at his church, Mount Zion First Baptist Church, and is the tenor section leader of the Baton Rouge Symphony Chorus. Taylor also directs a community chorus called Messengers of Music.
Several years ago, he enjoyed singing the part of “Old Deuteronomy” in the musical “Cats,” produced by Baton Rouge Little Theater.
A graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans as a voice major in music education, Taylor was pursuing a master’s degree in music at DePaul University in Chicago as a part-time student when he was drafted into the Army in 1959, he said.
At Fort Lewis in Washington, Taylor was the first director of a newly established Fort Lewis Soldiers Chorus.
When he returned to Louisiana, he pursued a career in education.
Taylor said he’s been touched by the way his family members responded in changing the family diet and meals after he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
He also is in his seventh year of participating in a study at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center called Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) that’s examining the long-term effects of an intensive lifestyle intervention program, he said.
And this fall, Taylor will be going to his fourth annual screening for kidney disease, he said.
African Americans have a higher prevalence of high blood pressure and diabetes, which means they are more likely to develop such complications as chronic kidney disease, according to the National Kidney Foundation.
“It has not always been that these kinds of services have been available within minority communities,” Taylor said of the upcoming health screenings.
That these screenings are “made available to folk who otherwise wouldn’t go is a tremendous advantage,” he said.