Derek Paravicini, the Blind Autistic Savant with Absolute Pitch

Derek Paravicini was born July 26th, 1979, in Berkshire, England. An oxygen overdosage rendered the prematurely born Paravicini blind and impaired his developing brain. Derek Paravicini’s neurodiversity effected his ability to communicate, but the autistic savant found his voice in the form of absolute pitch and musicality. Paravicini can’t count to ten and doesn’t know his left from his right, but he developed an acute sense of hearing that translates everyday sounds into musical notes. From engine noises to bustling streets, the autistic savant hears beauty in the chaos around him.

The Piano Comes Into Play

When Derek Paravicini was two years old, his nanny gave him a keyboard. He quickly took to it, and by four years old, he had a whole catalog of songs set to memory. Paravicini’s parents recognized their son’s incredible ability and arranged for Derek to attend the Linden Lodge School for the Blind in London. Established in 1902, the Linden Lodge School for the Blind focuses is a specialist sensory and physical school for children 2-19 years old. 

On Derek’s school tour, he broke free from his parents and headed straight to the music room. He immediately found the piano and pushed the musician sitting at the bench aside to take over. The musician was a teacher named Adam Ockelford, who would become Derek’s mentor while at Linden Lodge. Upon admittance into the school, Ockelford set up weekly and then daily music lessons for Derek. Paravicini’s time at Linden Lodge School fast-tracked his exploration and passion for music. His teachers recognized his musicality and fostered his inherent musical prowess.

The First Concert

Before the age of ten, Paravicini played concert halls, professional adult musicians only dreamed of. When Paravicini was seven, he played his first concert at Tooting Leisure Centre in South London. And just two years later, the musical savant picked up with the Royal Philharmonic Pops Orchestra at Barbican Hall.

He left the audience astounded. His musical genius was on full display. Derek Paravicini showcased talent seen once in a generation, all the while unable even to see the keys he played so elegantly. It wasn’t long before the world took notice. In the years following, Derek Paravicini was featured on two different television series, Extraordinary People from the U.K. and Stan Lee’s Superhumans in the U.S. 

He has worked with composer Matthew King and collaborated on Blue, the first concerto composed by someone with a learning disability. 

The Musician Today

Now 41 years old, Derek Paravicini continues to astound the musical community and beyond. Paravicini is known for his absolute pitch and technical abilities. Absolute pitch is a scarce talent, with only 1 in 10,000 individuals claiming the ability. The musical oddity denotes someone who can play any piece of music after hearing it only once. Paravicini and those with absolute pitch can take intricate music pieces and make them their own after just one play. 

Derek Paravicini, desperate to communicate, uses music to show us what his feelings sound like. They are beautiful, complex, and completely relatable. Dereks’ parents saw a way to ensure him a voice in the noise of our everyday world. Derek Paravicini’s talent cuts through the cacophony of our everyday lives and reminds us of the powerful language that music provides.

Related Articles