In The Key of Genius
The Extraordinary Life of Derek Paravicini
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About the author
Adam Ockelford was born in Nottingham in 1959, grew up on the Isle of Wight, and, when he left school, studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London. It was at this time, in the late 1970s, that he first started working with blind children, including those with additional disabilities. He was fascinated by just how musical many of them seemed to be. Trying to understand how these young people could 'hear' and understand music so effectively led him to develop a theory of how music makes sense - not just to them, but to all of us - a theory for which he was awarded a PhD by London University in 1993, and that has since been published in a number of academic journals and books. But Adam believes that theories are of little value unless they're put into practice, and he continues to work with a number of the young people - now adults - whom he first started to teach over twenty years ago, including Derek.
Adam is Professor of Music at Roehampton University and the Institute of Education, London; Secretary of the Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research; Chair of 'Soundabout', an Oxford-based charity that supports music provision children with complex needs; and founder of The AMBER Trust, which provides bursaries for blind and partially sighted children to have music lessons.
Derek Paravicini is blind, can't tell his right hand from his left and needs round-the-clock care. But he has an extremely rare gift - he is a musical prodigy with perfect pitch whose piano-playing has thrilled audiences at venues from Ronnie Scott's to Las Vegas, the Barbican to Buckingham Palace.
Born prematurely, Derek remained in hospital for three months and technically 'died' several times before he was finally strong enough to go home. It was not long before his blindness became apparent and later it became clear that he had severe learning difficulties and autism.
Desperately trying to find something to engage and stimulate baby Derek, his nanny discovered a toy organ and put it down in front of him. Miraculously, Derek taught himself to play. Music proved to be an outlet for expressing himself and communicating with others - his way of dealing with a strange and confusing world.
; July 2009
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Title: In The Key of Genius
Author: Adam Ockelford
In the press
"Nobody can really "know'' Paravicini since he is locked in his own world ... What Ockelford demonstrates is that it is possible to make such an insular world fulfilling, and the contemplation of this can touch the rest of us. That, in itself, is a considerable achievement."