Lemke, Leslie

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Lemke was born prematurely in Milwaukee and placed for adoption at birth. While still in the hospital awaiting placement he was diagnosed with retrolental fibroplasia (caused by too much oxygen while in the premature incubator) and both his eyes had to be removed. At six months, with a gloomy medical prognosis, he was placed with a middle-aged married couple who already had raised five birth children. He was slow developing, and has been diagnosed as severely mentally retarded, with cerebral palsy, unable to care for himself or hold extended meaningful conversations.

But he has very remarkable musical abilities, and is able to play thousands of pieces, including entire concertos, after hearing them only once. He also has extraordinary abilities to remember speech, including entire days of conversations, word for word. He can play a number of instruments, improvises and composes, and also sings (including songs he has heard only once, even in foreign languages). His playing is mechanical and loud, but note-perfect. He loves performing and his adoptive family have encouraged him.

Since his parents died in 1987 and 1993 he has lived in Wisconsin with one of his sisters and plays concerts all over the world for charity and also to endow a trust fund for his future care if necessary.


Treffert, Darold A. Extraordinary People. (London: Bantam Press, 1989)
Treffert, Darold A. "An Inspirational Performance by Leslie Lemke." [Includes portrait]. Available at: http://www.wismed.com/foundation/lemke.htm


20th Century
21st Century
Music and Dance
Mental Handicaps, Learning Difficulties
Physical Handicaps
Formal, American/European-Type Adoption
Birth or Infancy
Others ("Strangers")
Adoptive/Foster Family Included Birth Child(ren)
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