Derek Paravicini’s extraordinary gift

By | March 24, 2010

Derek Paravicini's extraordinary gift

There are some people we meet in our “60 Minutes” stories who we just can’t let go, whose next chapter we’re almost compelled to follow. Like Derek Paravicini, a masterful musician who is blind, with disabilities so severe he can’t tell his right hand from his left or hold anything but the simplest of conversations. When Derek is playing the piano, it’s hard to believe there is anything he can’t do, and yet when you meet him away from the keyboard, as we first did in London six years ago, the contrast is shocking. Derek is a musical savant, blessed with an island of extreme talent in a sea of profound disability. … Asked if he knows how old he is now, Derek said, “I don’t know how old I am, no.”

Today Derek is 30. He grew up in an upper class British family, the nephew of Camilla Parker-Bowles, now the Duchess of Cornwall. But none of that matters much to Derek.Derek was excited to show us the skills that make him so exceptional, the ability to instantly call up any piece of music he’s ever heard. Like the Village People’s “YMCA” or the show tune “My Favorite Things.” … But it isn’t just that Derek remembers them: he can transform them effortlessly and seamlessly into the styles of different musicians, like jazz greats. Asked to change to the style of Oscar Peterson, Derek changed style mid-song, playing “My Favorite Things” Oscar Peterson-style. He also wowed Stahl by playing the tune in the style of Dave Brubeck.

“It’s like he’s got libraries of pieces and styles in his head,” Adam Ockelford, Derek’s teacher, told Stahl. “And he can just whip out a piece book and a style book and just bring them together. It just kind of explodes.” How Derek’s fingers can do this but can’t button a button or zip a zipper remains a mystery. There are lots of theories about savants, but few real answers. Watch the entire video and read the full story at the “60 Minutes” site.

via ’60 Minutes’ exclusive: Derek Paravicini’s extraordinary gift – Yahoo! News.

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