Thursday, 28 May, 2009 Offbeat

Musical Prodigy to Give First Concert Accompanied by Orchestra


At the age of 30, Derek Paravicini proved to be more than just a musical genius. He was nicknamed "the human iPod" for his ability to memorize thousands of pieces of music and then reproduce them after the just one hearing. But what is really striking is that he is blind and suffers from autism and learning disabilities, hardly counting to ten and being unable to read Braille.

Next month Derek will play several concerts in Bristol and the Queen Elizabeth Hall in Southbank Center, being accompanied by Bristol's Emerald Ensemble, directed by Roger Huckle. According to Huckle, Derek's strongest point is his unpredictability, the genius having no fear of playing a wrong note. "If he does play something wrong he can cover it up within half a second. But having said that, I don't think he really perceives it as making a mistake," said Huckle.

Adam Ockelford, who teaches music at Roehampton University, is Derek's mentor and teacher. He says that Derek always considered piano as his territory not allowing anyone to play the instrument he was playing.

He started teaching him to play by picking him up, then shoving Derek on the other part of the room and playing something promptly before the boy reached the piano. Ockelford recalls it was an interesting game, because Derek was able to reproduce the music he heard. He was not really talkative, instead music became his language.

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