By Darold Treffert, MD
Once or twice a century there comes along a savant who is a giant among other musical savants who demonstrate the remarkable triad of blindness, musical genius and mental handicap. Three such giants in this rare but sensational condition are Blind Tom, Leslie Lemke, and Derek Paravicini.
Derek was born premature and lost his sight as a result of the oxygen therapy required to save his life. His development was also affected, but he soon acquired a fascination for music and sound. By the age of 4, he 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).
Adam Ockelford, at that time a music teacher at Linden Lodge School for the Blind in London, recognized Derek's amazing potential and began meeting with him for weekly and then daily lessons. Through this process Derek acquired the necessary foundations of technique, and his natural affinity for jazz and pop music soon became apparent.
Derek’s first major concert was at the Barbican Halls in London, when he was just 9 (in 1989). He played jazz with the Royal Philharmonic Pops Orchestra. Numerous national and regional television appearances followed, in the UK and overseas. His increasing maturity both as a person and performer enabled him to give concerts in venues across England and in Europe. Derek appeared several times on the CBS program 60 Minutes.
Learn more about Derek Paravicini at www.derekparavicini.net.
Ockelford, A. (2009). In The Key of Genius: The Extraordinary Life of Derek Paravicini.