The Musical Genius - Derek Paravicini

Posted by: LiszThalberg

The Musical Genius - Derek Paravicini - 02/23/07 09:14 PM

Thread Reactivated by Forums Owner 10/12/10 ... Cause Derek's Story and Talent Fascinate Me :-)

copied from youtube...

The Musical Genius - Derek Paravicini

Derek, now in his mid twenties, was born premature, at 25 weeks, and weighing just over half a kilogram. As a result of the oxygen therapy required to save his life, Derek lost his sight, and his development was affected too. It later became apparent that he had severe learning difficulties. However, he soon acquired a fascination for music and sound, and, by the age of four, had taught himself to play a large number of pieces on the piano, of some melodic and harmonic complexity (such as 'Smoke Gets in your Eyes').

Almost inevitably, with no visual models to guide him, his technique was chaotic, and even his elbows would frequently be pressed into service, as he strove to reach intervals beyond the span of his tiny hands!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Wow. The Human brain is amazing. And just goes to show that everyone is special.

Posted by: mr_super-hunky

Re: The Musical Genius - Derek Paravicini - 02/23/07 09:44 PM

That was fascinating!
Posted by: shimmer

Re: The Musical Genius - Derek Paravicini - 02/23/07 10:52 PM

Wow! From the way you described it above, I thought it may have been a joke. I love the way the British do documentaries. I was riveted watching part 1 (which is all I have time for at the moment) and can't wait to watch the other parts.

So ... does this debunk the other thread about talent being 95% practice ;\)
Posted by: LiszThalberg

Re: The Musical Genius - Derek Paravicini - 02/23/07 11:02 PM

Mabey... It mentioned that when he was 4 his parents took him to a school for the blind and he heard his first piano being played and he ran and pushed the girl playing it off and started playing... \:D

And the strange thing is, he doesn't understand how he does it. He can't button a single button but can play anything he has ever heard?!?! Truly amazing how the mind works...

Posted by: DeepElem

Re: The Musical Genius - Derek Paravicini - 02/23/07 11:19 PM

What a great story. Thanks so much for posting that Matt !!!!
Posted by: LiszThalberg

Re: The Musical Genius - Derek Paravicini - 02/24/07 02:05 PM

Just imagine if he had the communication skills to tell us what's going on inside his head. It would be amazing!

Posted by: Piano World

Re: The Musical Genius - Derek Paravicini - 10/12/10 11:20 AM

I know we usually don't like to revive old threads, but I find Derek's talents so interesting and wanted to expose other members to his story.

In addition to the videos at the start of this thread here are a few other links...

Derek's Blog with Performance Dates

Derek's Web Site

An Excerpt from 60 Minutes...

Extra: "YMCA" A La Derek
March 14, 2010 11:55 AM

Musical savant Derek Paravicini can remember and play a song after just one listen. He can also change its style or key instantaneously. Hear his Russian dance version of the disco classic!

On 60 Minutes March 2010
Includes Video of the complete 60 Minutes segment on Derek plus excerpts.


CBS) There are some people we meet in our "60 Minutes" stories who we just can't let go, whose next chapter we're almost compelled to follow.

Like Derek Paravicini, a masterful musician who is blind, with disabilities so severe he can't tell his right hand from his left or hold anything but the simplest of conversations.

"60 Minutes" and correspondent Lesley Stahl started following Derek because of his gift at the piano, but it's what he has taught us about relationships, communication and what music is really all about that has kept us coming back.

When Derek is playing the piano, it's hard to believe there is anything he can't do, and yet when you meet him away from the keyboard, as we first did in London six years ago, the contrast is shocking.

Derek is a musical savant, blessed with an island of extreme talent in a sea of profound disability.

"Do you know how long you've been playing the piano?" Stahl asked.

"Was it about a year, wasn't it?" Derek asked. "No it wasn't."

Asked if he knows how old he is now, Derek said, "I don't know how old I am, no."

Today Derek is 30. He grew up in an upper class British family, the nephew of Camilla Parker-Bowles, now the Duchess of Cornwall. But none of that matters much to Derek.

"You gonna have pizza tonight?" Stahl asked.

"Yes, pepperoni!" Derek excitedly replied. "In New York, what do they have? If I come next year, what do they have there?"

Derek was excited to show us the skills that make him so exceptional, the ability to instantly call up any piece of music he's ever heard. Like the Village People's "YMCA" or the show tune "My Favorite Things."

But it isn't just that Derek remembers them: he can transform them effortlessly and seamlessly into the styles of different musicians, like jazz greats.

Asked to change to the style of Oscar Peterson, Derek changed style mid-song, playing "My Favorite Things" Oscar Peterson-style.

He also wowed Stahl by playing the tune in the style of Dave Brubeck.

"It's like he's got libraries of pieces and styles in his head," Adam Ockelford, Derek's teacher, told Stahl. "And he can just whip out a piece book and a style book and just bring them together. It just kind of explodes."

How Derek's fingers can do this but can't button a button or zip a zipper remains a mystery. There are lots of theories about savants, but few real answers.

In Derek's case, the problems started early. He was born more than three months premature, weighing just a pound and a half. He hung on, but was left blind and with severe cognitive impairment. Derek's father, Nic Paravicini, says the first thing that really interested Derek was a small toy keyboard.

"My daughter suddenly said one day, 'He's just played one of the hymns we heard in church this morning," Paravicini remembered.

Derek was three years old at the time.

"And he didn't know, 'cause he couldn't see, and no one had told him, that you're meant to use your fingers to play the piano. So he used karate chops and elbows, and even his nose, I seem to remember," Derek's father told Stahl.

Derek had never met a piano teacher, until he literally crashed into one during a visit with his parents to a school for the blind. The teacher was Ockelford, in the middle of a lesson.

"Suddenly I felt a shove in the back. And he literally pushed me off the piano stool, and just started karate chopping the keyboard," Ockelford remembered. "I thought he was mad, actually, 'cause it was just chaos of notes and hair and elbows but then suddenly I noticed out of all of that was coming 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina.' I thought, 'Crikey, he's not mad at all. He's brilliant.'"

Ockelford phoned Derek's dad and told him he'd like to teach Derek. "It was almost as though Derek, through his pushing me off the stool was saying, 'Help,' you know, he was saying, 'I need.' 'Course he didn't, but, 'I need teaching,'" Ockelford said.

"So it was compassion," Stahl remarked.

"It was compulsion, I think," he replied.

The Rest of the 60 Minutes Article
Posted by: BenPiano

Re: The Musical Genius - Derek Paravicini - 10/12/10 11:26 AM

The History Channel has a show, "Stan Lee's Superhumans" that featured Derek.

Truly amazing!
Posted by: Piano World

Re: The Musical Genius - Derek Paravicini - 10/12/10 11:49 AM

Originally Posted By: BenPiano
The History Channel has a show, "Stan Lee's Superhumans" that featured Derek.

Truly amazing!

That's actually where I first learned about Derek.

The show has some pretty odd characters, but occasionally they come up with someone truly exceptional (like the guy with the super human memory).
Derek is certainly one of the amazing people.

Still, I wouldn't want to trade places with him.
As much as I admire (ok, and envy) his abilities, I'll stick with my
own life thank you very much :-)
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: The Musical Genius - Derek Paravicini - 10/12/10 12:16 PM

Thanks, Frank! I think I'll use some of those segments when I teach my psych of music class again next spring.