Derek Paravicini

Derek Paravicini (born 26 July 1979) is a blind English autistic savant and musical prodigy. He resides in London.

Derek Paravicini
Derek Paravicini 20apr08 2
Derek Paravicini at the keyboard, 20 April 2008.
Born26 July 1979 (age 39)
Known forMusic ability
RelativesAnn de Trafford (grandmother)
Andrew Parker Bowles (uncle)


Paravicini was born extremely prematurely, at 25 weeks, along with a twin sister who did not survive birth.[1] His blindness was caused by an overdosage of oxygen therapy given during his time in a neonatal intensive care unit. This also affected his developing brain, resulting in his severe learning disability.[2] He also has autism.

He has absolute pitch and can play any piece of music after hearing it once. He began playing the piano at the age of two when his nanny gave him an old keyboard. His parents arranged for him to attend the Linden Lodge School for the Blind in London. On his introductory visit to the school, in the music room he broke free from his parents, then headed straight for a piano being played, and then pushed the player, Adam Ockelford, aside to take over. Ockelford encouraged him and arranged first weekly and then daily lessons.[3][4] Aged seven, Paravicini gave his first concert in Tooting Leisure Centre in South London.

In 1989, at the age of nine, Paravicini had his first major public concert at the Barbican Hall in London when he played with the Royal Philharmonic Pops Orchestra. In that year, he appeared on Wogan and was the main subject of a documentary called Musical Savants.

When he was older, he was presented with a Barnardo's Children's Champion Award by Diana, Princess of Wales for his performances at age seven and nine.[2] More opportunities followed, including playing at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club.[4]

Paravicini's first album Echoes of the Sounds to Be was released on 27 September 2006. His official biography, In the Key of Genius by Adam Ockelford, was published in the UK by Hutchinson (ISBN 978-0091796129) on 3 May 2007.

He was featured on an episode of Channel 5's Extraordinary People in an episode titled "The Musical Genius", which showed his journey to Las Vegas to play in a charity concert with another savant, Rex Lewis-Clack. He was interviewed twice by Lesley Stahl for 60 Minutes.[3] In 2009, he was one of the subjects of the NOVA series' episode "Musical Minds", featuring neurologist Oliver Sacks, on PBS.[5] He was featured a second time by 60 Minutes on 14 March 2010.[6] In 2009, he performed for the former Chancellor Alistair Darling, when he unexpectedly played Big Spender.[2]

On 13 May 2010, Paravicini made legal history when the United Kingdom's last remaining secret court was opened for the first time to discuss his future care. The Court of Protection, which controls the future of adults incapable of managing their own affairs, appointed Paravicini's family to look after his welfare and commercial future. Until that legal decision was made, the Official Solicitor from the Ministry of Justice had been looking after his affairs, rather than his divorced parents, Nicolas Paravicini and Mary Ann Parker Bowles.[2]

On 26 August 2010, Paravicini was featured on the History Channel's Stan Lee's Superhumans. On the show, he was subjected to testing which verified his savantism and musical ability. After Paravicini improvised at two pianos with the composer Matthew King for a radio programme made for BBC Radio 4,[7] they collaborated on a new piano concerto entitled Blue, which was first performed with the Orchestra of St John's in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London in September 2011. This is believed to be the first work for piano and orchestra ever composed for someone with learning disabilities, and was the subject of a feature on BBC News in September 2011.[8]

On 9 March 2013, Paravicini appeared with Adam Ockelford at TEDxWarwick. During the talk,[9] Ockelford discussed Paravicini's amazing musical abilities, while Paravicini demonstrated them.


Paravicini is the son of Nicolas Paravicini and Mary Ann Parker Bowles, sister of Andrew Parker Bowles. Paravicini's aunt (by marriage) was Camilla, who later, by her marriage to the Prince of Wales, became Duchess of Cornwall.[2]

He is a great-grandson of author W. Somerset Maugham and great-great-grandson of Thomas John Barnardo. His stepmother is Susan Rose "Sukie" Phipps (born 1941), who was brought up by Fitzroy Maclean, one of the models for James Bond.[10] His cousins include the food writer Tom Parker Bowles and his sister Laura Lopes.[11]


  • Ockelford, Adam: In the Key of Genius: The Extraordinary Life of Derek Paravicini, Arrow, 2008. ISBN 978-0099513582/

See also


  1. ^ Jim Ankan. "Derek Paravicini – Musician or a Superhuman?". EF News International. Archived from the original on 9 May 2012. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e 'Autistic pianist makes legal history after UK's last secret court opens' The Times 14 May 2010
  3. ^ a b "Meet Musical Savant Rex: Lesley Stahl Checks In On A Boy With An Extraordinary Musical Talent". CBS, 60 Minutes. 23 October 2005. Retrieved 8 November 2007.
  4. ^ a b Darold Treffert, MD. "Derek Paravicini". Wisconsin Medical Society. Archived from the original on 25 June 2010. Retrieved 8 November 2007.
  5. ^ NOVA: Musical Minds
  6. ^ Derek Paravicini's blogsite
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "In the Key of Genius: Derek Paravicini and Adam Ockelford at TEDxWarwick 2013". YouTube. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  10. ^ "Derek Paravicini, the Parker Bowles prodigy",, 28 February 2008.
  11. ^ "Derek Paravicini, the Parker Bowles prodigy" The Times. 28 Feb 2008.

External links

1979 in jazz

This is a timeline documenting events of Jazz in the year 1979.

Andrew Parker Bowles

Brigadier Andrew Henry Parker Bowles OBE (born 27 December 1939) is a retired British Army officer. He is the former husband of Camilla Parker Bowles, who is now the Duchess of Cornwall as the wife of the Prince of Wales.

Ann Parker Bowles

Dame Ann Parker Bowles (née de Trafford; 14 July 1918 – 22 January 1987) was a British aristocrat and Girl Guides leader. Through her eldest son Andrew, she was the former mother-in-law of Camilla Rosemary Shand who later became the Duchess of Cornwall.

Blue (piano concerto)

Blue is a piano concerto by British composer Matthew King, composed specially for the autistic savant pianist Derek Paravicini. The concerto grew out of an improvisation session between the pianist and composer for BBC Radio 4 programme called The Inner World of Music. during which King and Paravicini extemporised in numerous styles. Fascinated by Paravicini's ability to improvise using advanced harmonies, similar to Ravel or Scryabin, King improvised with him for several sessions, slowly devising a work that came to use a number of themes from Gershwin as the basis for a large single movement piece in extended Sonata Form. A number of themes appear upside down. The concerto begins with a depiction of musical chaos, out of which thematic ideas gradually appear.

The concerto was premiered at the South Bank Centre in London with Derek Paravicini as soloist, and the Orchestra of St John's, conducted by John Lubbock in 2011. The collaboration between Matthew King and Derek Paravicini was the subject of a feature on BBC News in September 2011.

Elizabeth Hope, Baroness Glendevon

Mary Elizabeth (née Maugham, later Paravicini) Hope, Baroness Glendevon (1 September 1915 – 27 December 1998) was the only child of English playwright, novelist, and short story writer W. Somerset Maugham and his then mistress, Syrie Wellcome.

She was known as Liza, after her father's first successful novel, Liza of Lambeth. Lady Glendevon was the plaintiff in one of the most celebrated family law trials of the early 1960s, when she fought her celebrated father's unsuccessful attempt to prove that she was not his child. Her parents married in 1917, after her mother's divorce from the British pharmaceuticals magnate Henry Wellcome. Her mother was a daughter of orphanage founder Thomas John Barnardo.In his memoir Looking Back (1962), Somerset Maugham denied paternity of Liza. Around the same time, he attempted to have her disinherited in order to adopt his male secretary, suggesting that she was actually the child of Syrie by either Henry Wellcome, Gordon Selfridge or an unknown lover. The subsequent 21-month court case, fought in British and French courts, determined that Maugham was her biological father, and the author was legally barred from his adoption plans. Maugham's daughter was awarded approximately $1,400,000 in damages, comprising $280,000 in a cash settlement to compensate her for paintings originally willed to her, along with royalties to some of his books, and the controlling interest in his French villa.

Exceptional memory

The capacity for exceptional memory can take several forms.

Extraordinary People (2003 TV series)

Extraordinary People is a television documentary series broadcast on Channel 5 in the United Kingdom. Each programme follows the lives of people with a rare medical condition and/or unusual ability. People featured have or had rare illnesses such as rabies and eye cancer. Many of these people do activities previously thought impossible for people in their condition.

The show began airing on 28 March 2003.

Frank Holder (musician)

Frank Holder (2 April 1925 – 29 October 2017) was a Guyanese jazz singer and percussionist. He was a member of bands led by Jiver Hutchinson, Johnny Dankworth, and Joe Harriott.

George Shearing

Sir George Albert Shearing, OBE (13 August 1919 – 14 February 2011) was a British jazz pianist who for many years led a popular jazz group that recorded for Discovery Records, MGM Records and Capitol Records. The composer of over 300 titles, including the jazz standards "Lullaby of Birdland" and "Conception", and had multiple albums on the Billboard charts during the 1950s, 1960s, 1980s and 1990s. He died of heart failure in New York City, at the age of 91.

Julian Hope, 2nd Baron Glendevon

Julian John Somerset Hope, 2nd Baron Glendevon (6 March 1950 – 29 September 2009) was a British opera producer and nobleman.

July 26

July 26 is the 207th day of the year (208th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 158 days remaining until the end of the year.

Leslie Lemke

Leslie Lemke (born January 31, 1952) is a blind American autistic savant who is most notable for his work as a musician.

Linden Lodge School

Linden Lodge School for the Blind is a specialist sensory and physical college located in Wimbledon, South London. It educates visually impaired children aged between two and nineteen, including those who are multi-disabled visually impaired.The school was one of two residential schools for blind children opened by the London School Board in 1902. Initially for boys only, the original location of the school was at Wandsworth Common.

The present main school building was designed by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1934.

Matthew King (composer)

Matthew King (born 1967) is a British composer, pianist and educator. His works include opera, piano and chamber music, choral and orchestral pieces. He has been described, by Judith Weir, Master of the Queen’s Music, as “one of Britain's most adventurous composers, utterly skilled, imaginative and resourceful”.

Mind Field

Mind Field (a word play on Minefield and Mind) is an American web television series produced exclusively for YouTube Premium, created and presented by Michael Stevens, the creator of the YouTube channel Vsauce. The first two episodes premiered on the main Vsauce channel on January 18, 2017, followed by weekly episodes up until March 1, 2017. The third season began airing December 5, 2018.Stevens officially unveiled the show by releasing a trailer onto the Vsauce channel on January 11, 2017, one week before the series premiered.The format of the series is based heavily on Vsauce with Stevens presenting documentary-style episodes which focus on an interesting aspects of human behavior, particularly the brain and the influences of consciousness. Every episode contains an experiment, in which either volunteers or Stevens himself participates, that relates to the topic of the episode. For example, in episode one, Stevens locks himself in an empty room for three days in order to investigate the effects of solitary confinement on the brain.

The three seasons of eight episodes have been fully released.

Musical Minds

Musical Minds is a Nova documentary based on neurologist Oliver Sacks's 2007 book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain about music and the human brain aired on June 30, 2009 on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

The documentary features blind piano savant Derek Paravicini, Matt Giordano and Tony Cicoria.

Orchestra of St John's

The Orchestra of St John's is an Orchestra in the United Kingdom, founded in 1967 by John Lubbock. Originally called the Orchestra of St John's Smith Square, it was named after St John's, Smith Square in central London.

The Orchestra has worked with British soloists including Dame Felicity Lott, Tasmin Little, John Lill and Stephen Kovacevich, and also aims to provide a platform for new musicians, including performers such as Julian Bliss and Chloë Hanslip.

The Orchestra has held its own music festival each year at Dorchester Abbey in Oxfordshire since 2003, and also promotes concerts in London. These have included a one-hour series of early evening concerts at Cadogan Hall as well as performances at St John's, Smith Square, the South Bank Centre and regular appearances at the BBC Proms.

The Orchestra has also featured on two albums by the rock group Radiohead: the Grammy award-winning Kid A and Grammy-nominated Amnesiac. OSJ performed the première of Escape Velocity by Benjamin Wallfisch at the 2006 BBC Proms festival. The composer Matthew King also collaborated with the orchestra and the savant pianist Derek Paravicini on a piano concerto entitled Blue in 2011.

Redhill, Surrey

Redhill () is a town in the borough of Reigate and Banstead within the county of Surrey, England. The town, which adjoins the town of Reigate to the west, is due south of Croydon in Greater London, and is part of the London commuter belt. The town is also the post town, entertainment and commercial area of three adjoining communities: Merstham, Earlswood and Whitebushes, as well as of two small rural villages to the east in the Tandridge District, Bletchingley and Nutfield.

Savant syndrome

Savant syndrome is a condition in which someone with significant mental disabilities demonstrates certain abilities far in excess of average. The skills at which savants excel are generally related to memory. This may include rapid calculation, artistic ability, map making, or musical ability. Usually just one special skill is present.Those with the condition generally have a neurodevelopmental disorder such as autism spectrum disorder or have a brain injury. About half of cases are associated with autism and may be known as "autistic savants". While the condition usually becomes apparent in childhood, some cases may develop later in life. It is not recognized as a mental disorder within the DSM-5.The condition is rare. One estimate is that it affects about one in a million people. Cases of female savants are even less common than those of males. The first medical account of the condition was in 1783. Among those with autism between 1 in 10 to 200 have savant syndrome to some degree. It is estimated that there are fewer than a hundred savants with extraordinary skills currently living.

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