Participant Biographies


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. Sung Hoon Mo at the Music Institute of Chicago.  Previously, Spencer studied piano with Dr. Beth Bauer at the Wheaton College Community School of the Arts.  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.  Recently, Spencer was invited to perform at the Turning Pointe Career College graduation ceremony.  The Turning Pointe Career College is an educational opportunity for individuals impacted by autism and other social and communication disorders.  This Fall, Spencer will be sharing his music weekly at local area retirement homes.  Besides music, Spencer enjoys swimming, working out at the gym, solving Sudoku puzzles and telling Knock-Knock jokes.  He won gold and silver in swimming at the 2018 Illinois State Special Olympics Summer Games.  Spencer is 19 and lives in Naperville with his parents.


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.


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.


Timothy Nechuta

Timothy R. Nechuta is a senior at Okemos High School. Music has been a passion of Timothy’s since he began piano lessons at age seven.  In 5th grade Timothy began attending Our Savior Lutheran School in Lansing, MI, where he became intrigued by the pipe organ and began taking lessons.  While attending Our Savior, Timothy learned to play the hand bells and sing in choral groups.  Timothy has studied piano with Dr. Penny Draper for the past six years and enjoys performing at her piano recitals and attending the Michigan Music Teachers Association SAT every year.  Organ is Timothy’s main instrument.  He studies organ with Dr. Steven Egler, Central Michigan.  He has attended Interlochen Summer Camp, Oberlin Conservatory of Music Summer programs and attended two Pipe Organ Encounter summer camps. His part-time job is playing piano and pipe organ for church services every Sunday. He accompanies choral groups as well as, plays the entire church service.  Timothy is planning a career in music and will be majoring in music in college. He loves to play piano, organ, sing and compose music.


Masha Staples

Masha is a middle schooler in Metro Detroit area. She loves everything classical music related. Masha has been a student of Mrs Izabella Vilensky for almost 2 years. Her favorite composers are Chopin, Shostakovich, Gliere and John Williams. Masha is a big fan of sci-fi movies, and Star Wars saga is her favorite. She also likes to watch classical ballets, especially "Romeo and Juliet" and "Cinderella" by Prokofiev. She hopes one day to be able to travel to England's Royal Ballet Theater and Russia's Kirov Ballet to attend the performances. Masha's dream is also to travel to China and Japan. Her favorite musician is Gordon Staples. 

Masha was born with an absolute pitch and could identify and sing any note requested.  She really enjoys attending live classical music events.