Derek Paravicini was born in 1979. Even though he is blind, he is an autistic savant and musical prodigy in London. He had a premature birth and the oxygen therapy he received in the ICU led to his blindness. The therapy also harmed his brain development and learning abilities. Paravicini can play any musical instrument after listening to it only once. He was only two when he first started playing piano. As a kid he could play instruments with his nose or any other part of his body. He could play back all the nursery rhymes that were played to him. He attended school in London at the Linden Lodge School for the blind. He played in his first concert at the age of seven in South London. At the age of 9 he had the first significant public concert at the renowned Barbican Hall in London. He was given the Barnardo’s Children’s Champion Award by Diana, then Princess of Wales. His first album Echoes of the Sounds released in September 2006.
Paravicini’s mother was the sister in law of Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall. His great-grandfather is the great author William Somerset Maugham. Paravicini is an incredible pianist in spite of his blindness and serious learning disabilities. He has memorized more than a thousand pieces of pop, classical, jazz and is also an amazing improviser who plays completely by ear. His mentor Professor Adam Ockelford, a music psychologist has written his biography In the Key of Genius. Even though he is extremely talented, he needs help with the most basic of routine tasks such as washing and dressing up. He is looked after by the Royal National Institute for the Blind in a residential care home.
Derek’s parents are divorced but have been together in every aspect of his life. As a child he had so much energy that he broke his piano several times while playing. Eventually he could play each and every piece by heart and came to be known as the “Human iPod”. His skill is not only limited to mimicking music but he is also a composer, improviser and an adaptor. His articulation is not as limited as his verbal skills and he can echo anything he listens to. He has been using his medium to express his feelings. He is extremely fond of people and loves interacting with them with the help of music.
Derek’s condition is poorly understood- that of a savant. He has extraordinary mental prowess but paired with disabilities it has only confused the doctors. However they have concluded that since the brain compensates for other damaged areas it becomes hypersensitive and attempts to express in a way that could substitute language and other means of communication that might not be possible.
Derek is very close to his mentor Professor Ockelford since he was four years old. They both met in the school for the blind when he first heard Derek playing the Piano which impressed Ockelford so much that he spent most of the time teaching him.