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Music Helps Piano Prodigy Rex Lewis-Clack Transcend the Limitations of Autism and Blindness

By Louise Burton on Dec 03, 2013 05:32 PM EST

In 1995, Rex Lewis-Clack was born blind and severely autistic. When Rex was two, his father gave him an electronic keyboard. It soon became apparent that Rex had a special affinity for music.

"When he was three, he started picking out the notes from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony," his mother, Cathleen Lewis, said on a 2011 Science Channel program devoted to Rex's musical gifts.

Rex displayed an astonishing ability to play back piano pieces he had heard only once--transposing them into other keys even. He could also improvise musical variations based on a given theme.

Rex, who is now 18, clearly has a prodigious musical memory. "Once he hears a piece of music, it's there. It's there forever," said operatic baritone Sam McElroy, his music teacher.

Rex has performed professionally since he was eight years old, delighting audiences in and around Los Angeles with his astounding musical ability. But away from the keyboard, Rex has difficulty carrying on even a basic conversation.

It seems that music is the way he communicates best. Rex has been able to connect to other people and the outside world through his music. And music has been shown to help other people with autism or blindness, transforming their lives by offering important cognitive, social and emotional benefits.

Rex's transformative experience with music inspired the people in his life to start a charitable foundation, with the goal of providing music education grants to those with autism or blindness: the Rex and Friends Charitable Foundation, based in Los Angeles.

Rex will perform together with pianist Gabriela Montero at a benefit concert to officially launch the foundation on December 15 in L.A. Together, they will play a varied program of classical, jazz, pop and improvised music at the Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

For more information about Rex and Friends or their upcoming benefit concert, check out RexAndFriends.org.

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TagsRex Lewis-Clack, Autism, blindness, Sam McElroy, Gabriela Montero, Cathleen Lewis, Rex and Friends Charitable Foundation, Science Channel, Hollywood Forever

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