CASPER, Wyo — Oliver Soulek and his parents were downstairs at their East Casper home recently enjoying the new Marvel TV series “Moon Knight” when the 14-year-old felt the need to move from the couch to a small nearby keyboard.
“It’s quite interesting,” he recalled of the show’s theme music. “I tried to learn it that night.”
With a life filled with school, music clubs, piano lessons, golf and recently cross-country skiing, Oliver can’t escape the need to absorb and make music.
“What drives him is his incredible musicianship and expressive nature,” said his longtime piano teacher, Cindy Rogers. “He has a lot to say.”
This gift was partly developed out of necessity.
Oliver was born with Poland Syndrome, a rare congenital condition that typically leaves a chest cavity or hand without full muscle development.
“His left hand was much smaller and he had two different surgeries to separate his fingers, which were fused together,” said his mother, Michele Soulek.
Michele and Oliver’s dad Scott thought maybe piano lessons would be a good way to help Oliver strengthen his left hand. They approached Cindy when Oliver was 4 years old.
“I think we wanted to start earlier and we took him to see Cindy, and she said his hand was so tiny it could only fit on two keys,” Michele recalled. They started a few months later. “It was a learning experience for her, she had never had someone with a limb difference.”
“I remember suffering a lot with my left hand,” Oliver said. “I feel like I grew up to use that to my advantage.” Oliver says that on the piano, the right hand usually carries the melody while the left keeps the time. The hours of practice helped tremendously, he said.
In addition to piano, Oliver was a member of the Bel-Canto of the Casper Children’s Chorale for Young Singers. He has since graduated to the Choir. “He sings like a bird,” said his piano teacher, Cindy.
Next week, Oliver will travel with the Centennial Middle School Honors Junior Choir to perform at the 2022 Middle School Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall in New York City. He is also training for an upcoming online judging performance with the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, which won him a gold medal in his class last year.
Between piano lessons, practice and school, Oliver also takes golf lessons and plays piano in the Centennial Middle School Jazz Band, which performed in Buffalo last week.
“There’s nothing he can’t do in music,” said Cindy, who has been teaching piano for more than four decades.
“He’s an inspiration to the kids,” she says, “and he’s humble. He has very good parents.