Rex Lewis-Clack: Class of 2013- A Guest Blog from Cathleen Lewis

Gail Davis, 17 October 2013

Through it all, the viewer had always been pointed “down the road.” Where would Rex be as an adult? Well, with diploma in hand, and his 18th birthday two weeks later, seemingly the beginning of that “down the road” was here! Now!!

So, where goes the life? Where goes the music?

Rex has always worked hard to develop his piano gift, but as he became a teen, he realized he needed to double and triple his efforts, as his musical brain was outdistancing his hands. No, he couldn’t play the monumental Liszt Sonata in B Minor he had just heard for the first time, although that is exactly what he was attempting to do! His brain knew such pieces from hearing them, and craved playing them for their complexity that spoke to his genius brain, but his hands couldn’t produce them.

Like an Olympian oozing with raw talent, it’s the training that brings home the gold. And so, Rex rose once again to life’s challenge and won a spot in a prestigious German Piano Academy during the summer of his 16th year, enabling him to study piano alongside 15 gifted young pianists from around the world hailing from schools like Julliard and UCLA.

And here’s where my “mom gene” kicked into gear. Looking back, I can safely say that I felt a bit intimidated by the technical virtuosity of the other pianists. The Academy was the “A Team.” Rex, on the other hand, knew he wanted to be a part of the "A Team."

As always, he approached the whole thing like a wonderful adventure. And to my surprise, the German media came out en masse to film Rex’s participation, drawing crowds and excited expectation to all the performances where he was featured. He came away from the summer playing with new maturity – weaving technique with new emotional attachment, eventually winning one of only four prizes at the final competition performance!

As a result of that summer playing alongside some great young pianists, Rex decided to take a break from traveling to focus on his piano technique, studying with concert pianist and Master Pedagogue, Jura Margulis.

During this time, he also greatly developed his own creative improvisations and spontaneous compositions. We can give thanks on this front to Rex’s now good friend, the great Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero, who was also the subject of a 2006 60 Minutes profile of her own, for her genius in the art of classical improvisation (she was also the pianist at President Obama’s Hallmark 2009 Inauguration, who played in trio with Yo-Yo Ma on Cello and Itzhak Perlman on violin!)

So, happily goes the music.

As for the life, Rex has been participating in some exciting cutting-edge Neuro-therapy (brain therapy) these past two years. It was during the filming of Rex’s Documentary for the Science Channel, “Ingenious Minds,” that we chanced to meet a brain scientist named Bill Scott, who had developed an EEG Biofeedback system.

Bill explained that the system would allow Rex to “train his brain intuitively, by controlling feedback sounds simply through his brain waves.” Like he was composing music with his brain! He told us that his technology could help Rex become more independent, and that the therapy would allow Rex to express more of his suppressed personality. He also warned me that I needed to be prepared for him to be making more demands and become more like a typical teenager!

Typical? Bring it on! Or so I thought. Typical is good! And bossy? Can’t wait to see that! Now today, after two years of intense therapy, I’m happy to say that Rex, at 18, is indeed coming into his own. He regularly bosses me around!

Now that Rex has graduated from high school he is involved in a local Performing Arts School where he is studying acting in addition to music, throwing emotion into the spoken word as well as his music. And I’m pretty sure the school has never seen anyone recite Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 – “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?” – while spontaneously composing a piano score to go with it, as Rex did last week!

So now that Rex is a “bossy” teenager, he has decided to reengage and go “unplugged” for future presentations. When he performs now, he wants to interact more with his audiences. He is excited about taking requests for improvisation, in a sort of musical Q and A . . .and why not an impromptu duet or two if there is a pianist in the audience?

As we look to the future, it’s bright. With 60 Minutes poised for a record 4th profile of Rex’s life, our dear friend Lesley Stahl had the opportunity to introduce Rex to play piano on Wall Street last year. As she observed, it’s obvious that in Rex’s life – today more than ever before – you can’t separate the man from the music.

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