The Extraordinary Story of Leslie Lemke

The Extraordinary Story of Leslie Lemke

There is no doubt in my mind that music is full of wonder and has powers beyond human understanding – and then there are stories like that of Leslie Lemke. Leslie was born with cerebral palsy and his eyes were surgically removed within the first few months of his life. May and Joe Lemke adopted him when he was 6 months old. Leslie was very slow to develop during his first several years of life and he was not able to stand on his own until 12 years of age and it took another 3 years before he could walk unassisted. Yet something unthinkable happened during his sixteenth year.

May describes how one night her and Joe awoke to the sounds of beautiful piano playing and figured that the TV had been mistakenly left on only find that it was Leslie sitting at the piano performing a Tchaikovsky piano concerto he had heard just earlier that same night. This was the sudden realization that Leslie was a musical prodigy and had the ability to literally mimic any music he heard nearly instantly after hearing it. He began developing his music skills with much support from May and Joe and before too long he started to sing along with his piano playing. This was also uncanny as Leslie had never spoken before and didn’t actually develop his speech for another 8 years after this despite his accomplished singing voice.

It is hard to say how this could be or how to make any sense of this at all. Suffice to say it is beautiful and marvelous and speaks to the magic of music, how it connects us with something well beyond what we grasp in the everyday world. Often times before a musician becomes a musician, I believe s/he has an epiphanic moment where the veil is suddenly lifted and a union is made with whatever is channeling through him or her. Music possess them if you will. In rare cases, it is so marvelous as this. Thankfully, May chose to and could afford to purchase a piano so that she could share something with her idle child who was also unaided by the gift of sight. Often enough, she would play a few random notes on the piano throughout his childhood so that he was aware of music and that it was something to be made.

This makes me pause and think if there are children out there whose musical gifts, and possibly other gifts as well, are being missed because we do not feel that we have the time to tend to someone so generously and mindfully. I can only imagine there are incredibly skilled children and people of all ages with a wide a range of abilities that remain latent, patiently awaiting a chance to burst into song or art or dance. It is high time that we invest in people more carefully allowing for them to ripen at the pace for which is innate to them. There is so much potential out in the world for beauty to display itself, we only need time for it to unfurl according its natural timeline. My wish is that we may gain greater patience as we continue to evolve so as to let the nature within us reveal itself in its most profound ways. There is so much beauty we could make.

Leslie Lemke as featured on “That’s Incredible” – 1981