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Heavenly Notes from a Life Etched With Disability: The Strangest Song

Aged 51, Gloria Lenhoff, struggles to do simple arithmetic or to make change for a dollar. She is incapable of pointing out which is left or right. //She can’t write down her name clearly, nor can she cross a road all by herself. She is a differently abled person. She can sing like a nightingale although her IQ is only 55. Trained well as a classical lyric soprano, she knows hundreds of songs in Italian, German French, Macedonian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Hungarian, Yiddish, and several other languages. But she can't read music. Every musical note, each nuance, is stored in her brain. Her brain is however only 80 percent as large as a normal sized brain. She suffers from Williams syndrome-a rare disorder.

The Strangest Song: One Father's Quest to Help His Daughter Find Her Voice The Compelling Story of the Link Between a Rare Genetic Disorder and Musical Talent Teri Sforza with Howard and Sylvia Lenhoff This is the first book to tell the story of Williams syndrome and the extraordinary musicality of many of the people who have it. Interweaving science and the personal in a compelling narrative, author Teri Sforza follows the quest of biochemistry professor Howard Lenhoff to help his mentally handicapped daughter, Gloria. From his discovery of Gloria's outstanding vocal talent and innate musical gifts, Lenhoff becomes convinced that people with her disorder have an unusual capacity for learning music, despite their profound mental disabilities. Lenhoff is at first rebuffed, called crazy, and finally vindicated when scientists—and his own formal research—confirm his hunch.

Williams syndrome is a rare genetic aberration that occurs once in every 7,500 births. It springs from a peculiar mishap on the molecular level, a tiny chemical error, but one that exacts an enormous toll on body, brain, and personality. The result is an atypical body and a profoundly asymmetrical mind. Thanks to Howard Lenhoff's single-minded determination and love for his daughter, he succeeds in helping his daughter beyond his wildest dreams. Gloria's talents take her to a concert at Washington's Kennedy Center and a number of classical recordings. Lenhoff also helps establish the first residential college for mentally disabled musicians in Massachusetts.

An inspiring blend of human interest and breakthrough science, The Strangest Song offers startling insights into the mysteries of the brain and hope that science can find new ways to help the handicapped.


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