Interview with Derek Paravicini
Pianist Derek Paravicini (DP) is a musical savant who is blind and has severe learning difficulties. He has been performing at our creative:space event for disabled children and their families since its inception in 2003. Here, he and his manager Adam Ockelford (AO) talk about how Derek first got started and why they are creative:space regulars:
Create: How did you and Adam first meet? How did your relationship develop?
DP: “When I was little, I pushed Kelly off the piano stool and started to play Don’t Cry [for me] Argentina. I was four or five.”
AO: “I was teaching a girl called Kelly at Linden Lodge School and Derek was looking around the school with his mum and dad. Suddenly, he pushed Kelly off the piano stool and started to play the piano. All I thought was ‘wow, Derek must be keen then’.”
AO: “Do you remember when you actually first started playing anything? How old were you then?”
DP: “I do remember when I first started playing something, yes. I was two!”
AO: “Derek started to teach himself to play the piano on a little keyboard.”
DP: “I played Cockles and Mussels!”
AO: “He spent a huge amount of time practicing scales and arpeggios, and he did his first concert when he was eight at Tooting Leisure Centre: he played Streets of London. Then he did his first big concert when he was nine at the Barbican.”
DP: “At the Barbican, and I played L.O.V.E! That was cool.”
AO: “And then it just went on and on really. Derek did lots of TV, he did Wogan.”
DP: “I did Wogan, yes! Did I do EastEnders with Wogan?”
Create: What has music brought to your life, Derek? How does it make you feel?
DP: “Does it make me feel happy, happy is it? It makes me feel happy! Happy music.”
Create: Why did you decide to play at creative:space?
AO: “I think because Derek enjoyed them – it gave him the opportunity to play with lots of different musicians. In a way Derek is ideal for creative:space because he can play what people want; and of course for children with disabilities, to have someone who can play their favourite piece is extremely good. Also the way Derek plays is quite energetic and extrovert, and I think the children pick up on his energy and his innocent charisma. They just come and sit nearby and watch him play. It’s all rather fun!”
Create: Do you enjoy creative:space Derek?
DP: “I do enjoy playing, yes, I do enjoy playing at creative:space. I enjoy the Sunday trips [to the venues], and playing the piano. I enjoy meeting the children. I like taking requests!”
Create: What do you think creative:space gives to children with disabilities?
AO: “Well, it is that opportunity to go to a public music event and not be worried. Parents worry, they get very stressed about taking their kids out, and I think that in itself makes the event extremely worthwhile. I also like that Create uses different musicians each time because it brings a freshness to the event, which is very good. It’s got a nice informal atmosphere, which is great as the kids can participate – or not – there is no compunction, which I think is a great strength. Having the families there also adds a particular dimension, which is nice.”
Create: Derek, would you like to add anything?
DP: “I’d like to do another creative:space, I want to do another concert! When is the next concert?