Leslie Lemke genius

Leslie Lemke

Leslie Lemke 

Work & Publications
Genius Quotes
External info
Birth date
Birth Place
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US
Zodiac Sign
IQ Score
Fields of Expertise
Playing the piano
More facts    →

I’m making it up

Leslie Lemke is a blind American autistic savant who is most notable for his piano skills. He can play any musical piece he ever heard even once in a perfect manner. 

Early Life

Lemke was born prematurely in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Because of this, he has developed problems with retinas in both his eyes. Those later developed into glaucoma and because of this Leslie’s eyes were removed in the first months of his life. In addition to losing sight, Lemke also suffered from cerebral palsy and brain damage. Due to this condition, he couldn’t stand until he was 12 and it took him an additional 3 years to learn how to walk.

Because of the various health conditions, his mother gave him up for adoption. He was later adopted by the nurse-governess May Lemke, who was told that the child would likely die. His stepmother had to place cereal on his tongue and stroke his throat so that he would swallow food. Leslie was able to chew food on his own only a year later.

In the following years, the boy displayed little to no emotion, was distant, and not willing to engage in conversations. Leslie did know how to repeat what was said to him in an exact tone. May built a four-and-a-half-foot strap system to help Leslie learn how to walk.

Discovery of his talent

Leslie’s savant syndrome became apparent when his foster parents bought him a piano at the age of 7. His foster mother placed her hands over his to help him learn how to play. A while later Leslie learned how to use such instruments as a chord organ, drums, and accordion. When he played the piano, Leslie’s handicap seemed not to affect him, despite the fact that he couldn’t hold eating utensils.

The real discovery happened when Leslie flawlessly performed Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto no. 1 which he had heard on television one night. His piano skills woke up both of his parents in the middle of the night. He was only 14 years old. Lemke soon learned how to play various musical pieces from classical compositions to ragtime tunes.

Leslie Lemke with his adoptive mother

His unique brain meant that he could remember and play a musical piece of any length flawlessly after hearing it just once. He is considered to know many compositions by heart, but his most favorite have to be “Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art”. With time Leslie became more musically accomplished and developed his verbal skills. Soon he could even play improvisation of songs he had heard as well as compose entirely new pieces on the spot.

Musical career

By 1980, Leslie was having regular converts in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. He was invited to such TV shows as BC's Man Alive, the CBS Evening News, 60 Minutes, and That's Incredible! ABC broadcasted The Woman Who Willed a Miracle, a drama about Leslie’s life with his foster mother. The film that aired in 1983 starred Cloris Lachman as May Lemke. Fred Small's song, "Leslie is Different" has Leslie as its main subject.

During his life, Lemke gave concerts across the United States, Japan, and Scandinavia.

More facts

Gender: Male
Best Known For: Being able to play any musical piece on a piano after hearing it once.
Fulfilled his Potential: Yes
Mother’s Name: May Lemke (adoptive mother)
Citizen Of: United States
Autodidact: Yes
Leslie Lemke
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