Participant Biographies

Meaghan Diel

Meaghan Diel is 15 years old and is  from Holland, Mi. She will be attending West Ottawa High School as a freshman this fall. Meaghan has been playing piano for almost over 5 years under the teaching of Vonnie Rietsema.  In addition to playing the piano Meaghan enjoys participating in her school and church choirs.  She always seems to be singing or humming a tune. 

David Ginther

David is 22 years old.  He was born in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and has lived in Midland, Michigan for 21 years. David started playing piano at 10 years of age. He has had a lesson every week, including summers, with Barbara DuRussell of Midland, Michigan.  David participates in studio performance classes in Mrs. DuRussell’s studio and will be part of Midland MTA's Keyboardfest for his third year this coming January. David enjoys tennis, and rides  his  bike up to 100 miles a day.  He is also an avid cross country skier and runner.

Spencer Hua

Spencer Hua is a piano student of Dr. Beth Bauer at the Wheaton College Community School of the Arts for the past 13 years.  Born in December 1998 and diagnosed with autism two years later, Spencer went through multiple therapies – speech, physical, occupational, and music. Music therapy brought him tremendous joy and eventually evolved into an unwavering passion for piano performance. Today Spencer is a fun-loving, charismatic 18-year old who recently graduated from Neuqua Valley High School.  Besides music, Spencer enjoys swimming, working out at the gym, solving Sudoku puzzles and telling Knock-Knock jokes. His most recent accomplishments include a solo performance at the NVHS 2017 Variety Show where he played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, winning gold and silver medals in swimming at the State Special Olympics Summer Games, and memorizing 10,000 digits of π.  This Fall, Spencer will attend the College of DuPage to study math and Chinese. Spencer lives in Naperville with his parents. He has two older sisters.

Rex Lewis-Clack

Born blind, Rex Lewis-Clack was diagnosed with autism as a toddler, and then labeled a musical genius (piano) by the age of 7, when musicologists became astounded by his ability to play back complex piano pieces he had heard only once, and then transpose them into other keys or improvise off themes with little effort. Considered a prodigious musical savant, Rex ranks as one of less than 50 people throughout history to combine blindness, intellectual disability, and prodigious musical ability. He was featured at age seven on the CBS show 60 Minutes in 2003, and subsequent follow up profiles in 2005 and 2008, earning the Edward R. Murrow Award, “Best Feature in a Newsmagazine.”

Rex has been travelling the world to share his life and piano gift with select audiences since the age of 8, inspiring YPO (Young Presidents' Organization) audiences with his piano playing and helping raise funds and awareness for select causes such as blindness, autism, or other disabilities. In 2006, Rex was the winner of the “Winspiration Award” in Germany for taking the hand he’s been dealt in life and using it to not only “win” but also for “inspiring” others to do the same. Rex’s official autobiography, "Rex—A Mother, her Autistic Child and the Music that Transformed their Lives," written by his mother Cathleen Lewis, was published in 2008, by Thomas Nelson Publishers, and has been since translated into eight foreign languages.

Alexander McCullough

Alexander McCullough is a fourth year piano student of Dr. Anne McLean at the McLean piano studio in Naples Florida. At age 12 he has become an avid disability rights activist and up and coming pianist. His understanding and desire to help others, combined with his passion and love for music takes him through his daily journeys. Alexander enjoys performances at the Naples Philharmonic center for the Arts throughout the year and looks forward to his own piano recitals to please an audience with a Beethoven Sonata. As his music career moves forward Alexander would like to compose and record, so he can express his feelings through music to share with others.

Kalil Olsen

Kalil Olsen is a 17 year old high school student from East Lansing, MI, right in MSU’s backyard. He spends his time participating in various clubs and activities, such as Chess Club, Mid-Michigan Youth Symphony (MMYS), East Lansing High School Marching Band, piano lessons with Professor Derek Polischuk, and he also plays Competitive Call of Duty on the weekends. Having started his own computer building business for the first time, while in middle school, he enjoys working with computers, and has been attending a Cyber Security program at the Capital Area Career Center. While attending the Cyber program, Kalil represented the Career Center at many local, and national competitions, including the 2017 Business Professionals of America National Leadership Conference in Orlando, FL. Kalil holds the position of one of three Drum Majors of the ELHS Marching Band. He has played piano for 12 years and has taken private lessons on and off for about 10 years. Kalil also plays the French Horn - and prior to being a Drum Major- Mellophone in the Marching Band. In addition, during the 2015-2016 school year, after just a few weeks of practicing on his own, he got solo chair for trumpet in one of the two ELHS Jazz Bands. Music is important in his life, and he plans on attending MSU after he graduates from ELHS in 2018. Kalil plans on playing the piano for years to come, as well as the many other instruments he plays.

Joey Tan

Joey was born in 2001 in Singapore. In 2004, she attended a preschool with the University of Kansas which provided her access to early intervention programs to aid her education as an Aspie. She is now a freshman in a Kansas virtual school. She began piano lessons when she was 5. Since 2011, Joey started studying piano under Carol Cook. Under Mrs. Cook’s tutelage, Joey has studied a great variety of piano music. Her favorites are Moonlight Sonata Movement 1 by Beethoven and Nocturne Op 72 No 1 by Chopin. All these years, she has been enjoying doing solo piano music and in spring 2016, she embarked on her first duet piece, Slavonic Dance Op 72 No. 2 by Antonin Dvorak, with another teenage pianist, Luther Fuller. It has been a very educational experience for Joey. Besides playing piano, she also enjoys reading, writing and listening to her favorite bands.