Beacon Stories

Jan 13, 2020

Charlie Kramer: Singing in the Dark

26-year-old Charlie Kramer is well-known as a professional song leader, songwriter and spiritual leader. But until recently, Charlie didn’t want to openly share his journey with vision loss.

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Charlie was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) at just 5 years old. At first, Charlie didn’t notice he was seeing any differently than his friends until around middle school. As Charlie’s sight continued to deteriorate, at 16 years old, he went through mobility training and received a white cane, but he only used it if he was in a public place with large crowds, like Disney or a concert. He would bump into his classmates walking through the hallways at school, but he never thought or wanted to use a white cane.

Charlie Kramer performing

Charlie performing

Charlie’s mom, Colette, also has RP and has been involved with the Los Angeles Foundation Fighting Blindness chapter for almost 15 years. Colette volunteered the Kramer family to become the first Family Chair for the Los Angeles VisionWalk 13 years ago and the whole family has participated every year since.

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“It’s important to our family to be present and advocate for those in our community,” says Charlie. “The Foundation and VisionWalk are so important in our lives. It’s always been helpful for me to be exposed to others with vision loss, even if I haven’t always been open about it myself.”

Charlie’s true passion in life has always been music. Charlie learned to play guitar in the sixth grade and immediately started a rock band with his cousin. In the eighth grade, Charlie began song leading at his temple, which involved leading services and teaching the younger children to sing songs, and instantly fell in love.

Now, music is Charlie’s full-time career, touring around the world as a professional Jewish singer and acoustic guitarist. With all his travels, Charlie recently began using his white cane to navigate and is now openly sharing his diagnosis of RP.

“My music career taking off has really given me the ability to look at my vision loss as a tool to help people,” says Charlie. “For a while, I wasn’t accepting of who I was, and I was pushing my RP to the side. I wanted to live my life without people knowing, but last year was almost like coming out of the closet for me. It transformed my life, career and impact on the world and now I feel more comfortable in my own skin.”

Charlie Kramer playing his guitar

Charlie playing his guitar

Charlie credits his growth in the last year to his strong relationship with his girlfriend, Bryna, who encouraged him to share who he is and use his white cane.

Last January, Charlie created a musical experience called Singing in the Dark, performing at conferences and synagogues across the country.

“I think everyone can be blind to something,” says Charlie. “Singing in the Dark is an opportunity to not only raise awareness for the visually impaired community, but for people to open up and accept what they might be blind to in their lives, whether that’s physical, mental or spiritual.”

Currently, Charlie is recording his first album, featuring songs he’s written sharing his diagnosis and personal struggles with RP.

“For so long, I was hesitant to do what I really wanted because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to achieve it while having RP,” says Charlie. “But I work my butt off and live my dream as a musician every day. I may have to do things a little differently, but I can still do anything and so can anyone.”

To learn more about Charlie, visit: charliekramermusic.com