Derek Paravicini weighed half a kilogram when he was born, prematurely at just 25 weeks. Growing up blind and with severe autism, Paravicini had trouble communicating, but was fascinated by sound. He began teaching himself how to play the piano and, by 4-years-old, had taught himself an incredible catalogue of songs that he played with unusual technique. Soon, Paravicini began studying with Adam Ockelford, a teacher at the Linden Lodge School for the Blind in London, who saw in him the marks of a highly inventive musician. Paravicini gave his first concert at age 7 and, two years later, played the Barbican Hall.
Now in his thirties, Paravicini has continued to grow as a performer, with the ability to reimagine complex pieces of music even after only hearing them once. He was featured in the series Extraordinary People in the United Kingdom and, in the United States, on Stan Lee's Superhumans, which verified his musical ability and confirmed his savantism. Paravicini has also worked with composer Matthew King. The two have played improvised pieces on BBC Radio and collaborated on Blue, the first concerto ever composed for someone with learning impairment.
In the 1970s, Adam Ockelford began teaching music at the Linden Lodge School for the Blind in London. He was excited to find that many of his students showed tremendous talent for music. The experience drove a deep interest in how people intuitively understand music, and how this understanding is different for people with disabilities.
Ockelford is now a Professor of Music at the University of Roehampton, the Chair of Soundabout -- a charity which supports music education for children -- and founder of the AMBER Trust, which supports visually impaired children in their pursuit of music. He is also Secretary of the Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research (SEMPRE).
Ockelford has one student who he has taught since the 1980s—pianist Derek Paravicini, who gave his first concert at age 7. Now in his 30s, Paravicini stll regularly thrills audiences with his piano talents, with his mentor Ockelford at his side.