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Disabled boy a musical genius

By , | Posted - Feb 14th, 2008 @ 10:18pm

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Ed Yeates reporting

An 11-year-old boy in Tooele was born with multiple disabilities. They're so profound, he can't even do simple things. Yet, despite all the mis-wiring in his brain, he's a genius.

It takes years to become a polished musician, one who can make the keys talk and talk well. But for Kodi Lee, it just happened naturally, like turning on a switch.

Kodi can't dress himself without help from his brother, Derek. He's legally blind, reading from braille or massive print held against his eyes, and he reads only at a first- or second-grade level.

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Communicate? His mother, Tina, said, "You ask him to carry a simple conversation, and he just can't do it."

He's autistic, hyperactive and emotionally reactive. He's learned how to breathe to control crying spells, but put him in front of a keyboard, and Kodi turns into a genius - what researchers call a musical savant. No books, no teaching, all natural, from a part of his brain that dishes out reams of music.

Tina said, "The minute you put him on stage, it's like he turns a hat and he's a professional."

Without notice, we threw everything at him, asking him to play Star Wars, then the background music from Spiderman. We had to stop him or he would have played it all!

Researchers say rare savants like this have incredible recall, almost a compulsive need to let it all out. Kodi can improvise instantly while he's playing; for example, classic Moonlight Sonata becomes a little more contemporary.

Professional musicians don't interfere because what he does is unique, intuitive.

Eric, Kodi's father, said, "Music to him is like air. I mean it's not like he's an autistic, blind boy who likes music. I mean it's really a part of him and he's driving himself to do better."

Kodi sings, too. Though his voice is going through puberty and changing, he'll eventually control that as well.

"At the age of four, we could call out the name of a song or maybe part of the song, and Kodi would sing the entire song from beginning to end," Eric said.

Kodi and some high school seniors have now formed a band, performing at his own school in Tooele, or last week's concert in California, or improvising, a cappella style -- Kodi does it all!

Chad Carter, from Kodi and the Chillbodis Band, said, "I could probably spend 30 years trying to learn what he knows now, and I would never get there."

That band - Kodi and the Chillbodis - now plans to perform for charity and fundraising events.

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