In the Key of Genius

Friday 7th June 2024

Pupil review by Sasha B

On Tuesday 4th June, the Lower Sixth had the amazing opportunity to meet and hear the astounding talent of world-class pianist Derek Paravicini. Derek is a musical savant, who can play complex musical pieces after only hearing them briefly. He lives with blindness, learning difficulties and severe autism; despite these barriers he has developed incredible musical skills.

The talk was presented by Professor Adam Ockelford, his teacher, who took us through his early years, from the time he was two years old and received his first piano gift to the age of 10, when Derek performed with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Adam even played us a recording of a piece of music that Derek composed when he was only four years old. Already at this age, it was evident Derek had immense technique and talent. We were offered a further insight into his expertise when the audience was asked to select any song or piece of music. Derek was able to flawlessly play the piece, and even add his own unique and personalised touch. It was remarkable to witness the influence of music and how, for individuals such as Derek, the art of music can be a form of communication. Derek was joined on stage by Poppy McGhee (NC 2018-23) who performed Piazzolla’s Oblivion. Her enthusiasm for music has led her to work with The Amber Trust (which provides musical opportunities for blind and partially sighted children and children with more complex needs) since the age of 10.

I was honoured to be given the chance to stay behind at the end and ask Derek to play a piece by Adele, which after hearing the opening two beats, he was able to play the entire song on the piano, not missing a single beat. It was truly fascinating, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and learning more about Derek.

In addition, Derek offered to visit two local primary schools. The pupils at Marlborough St. Mary’s CE Primary School and Preshute Primary School were treated to a more intimate performance in their classrooms, with one of their teachers writing “this really was an amazing experience for the children and all of us!”.

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