Since the early 1980s, George Winston has made his living with a piano or a guitar.
And while he is happy that music has put food on his table for 20 years, he said the monetary rewards have always been secondary.
"I'm grateful for any chance to play for people," he said in a recent telephone interview. "That's the reason I play. If I didn't have the opportunity to make my living doing this, I'd still play for free. I'd play in the park if I had to. I love that I've been able to do this for 20 years, and my plan is to do it for 80."
Mr. Winston, who will play a benefit concert for the Golden Harvest Food Bank concert Thursday, is best known for his peaceful, elegant solo piano work, such as the Autumn and December albums. But he also plays guitar in the Hawaiian slack-key style and the harmonica. He plays all three instruments on his most recent release, Remembrance, a benefit album recorded in the wake of Sept. 11.
"I have always wanted to do a benefit record of some kind, but it never really came together," Mr. Winston said. "Things just sort of worked out this time. It was kind of a funny experience as well because, instead of six years, I only took two days to record this record."
Mr. Winston said he would never admit to having mastered any instrument. But he is comfortable on piano, guitar and harmonica and has no plans to expand his musical talent.
"I'm not a great guitar player," he said. "I'm really not great at any of them. I'd say I get a solid B in everything, and these three are enough for me. They really kind of encompass every school of instrument. I can play plucked or percussion or bowed or wind arrangements using these instruments, and really they are almost more than I can keep up with."
Mr. Winston said he makes a concerted effort to play different types of shows. Recently, he began playing his own arrangements of popular dance songs.
"I love seeing where songs take me," he said. "I love seeing what is appropriate for where I am. For instance, for a dance concert, I won't play the December album, and for the solo piano shows I wouldn't play a 30-minute version of Love Potion No. 9. It's a lot like putting on different sets of clothes."
While Mr. Winston spends a great deal of time performing, his recorded output is more sporadic. Since 1980, he has released only eight albums.
"An album is like a tree," he said. "You can prune and water it, but you can't force it to grow. It will grow on its own. It takes time. Songs have to ripen and deepen. Dealing with songs is like dealing with 300 cats. Each one has to be handled differently."
WHAT: George Winston
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: West Acres Baptist Church, 555 Gibbs Road, Evans
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org