Portrait of Musical Prodigy Mentored in Roehampton Unveiled

Derek Paravicini's genius developed by Professor Adam Ockelford

The unveiling of the portrait at the Mall Galleries
The unveiling of the portrait at the Mall Galleries


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The University of Roehampton has unveiled a double portrait celebrating the remarkable forty-year musical partnership between Prof Adam Ockelford, Professor of Music at the University of Roehampton, and musical prodigy Derek Paravicini. Painted by Saied Dai, the portrait was unveiled on, Thursday, 5 May at a private event at the Mall Galleries in London.

The portrait, commissioned by German-British information technology pioneer, businesswoman and philanthropist Dame Stephanie Shirley CH, celebrates the long-standing mentoring relationship between Adam and Derek, which first began in 1982 when Derek was just two years old. Derek, who holds an honorary doctorate from the University in recognition of his extraordinary musical accomplishment, is able to play almost any piece of music after hearing it only once, despite being blind and an autistic savant. Derek debuted as a concert pianist at the age of 10 performing at the Barbican with the Royal Philharmonic Pops in 1989 and has since then taken the classical music world by storm.

Adam and Derek’s long-standing and ongoing mentoring relationship flourished with Adam’s role as the author of the official biography “In the Key of Genius: The Extraordinary Life of Derek Paravicini”, published in 2008. In addition, Adam and Derek have spoken together on a number of occasions and events about Derek’s unique relationship with music including the TedxWarwick video “In the key of genius” in 2013.

Adam Ockelford, Professor of Music and Director of the Applied Music Research Centre at the University of Roehampton, said, “Derek and I are thrilled to have our special relationship captured in such an intimate portrait by leading artist Saied Dai. The characteristic sound of Derek's piano is crystallised in the magical symmetries of the painting. I have known Derek since he was just two years old and officially started working with him when he was five and I hope the painting inspires young children with special needs that they too can pursue their own aspirations or dreams successfully, just like Derek has.”

Saied Dai, the artist for the painting, said, “The challenge of this portrait commission has been to encapsulate the nearly forty-year mentoring relationship between the musician Derek Paravicini and Professor Adam Ockelford. My intention was to create a telling double portrait through a complex composition, evoking the musicality and rhythms synonymous with the world of the two sitters - hopefully achieving an archetypal and timeless quality.”

Adam Ockelford has been a Professor of Music at the University since 2007. A trained musician at the Royal Academy of Music, he specialises in research focusing music psychology, education, theory and aesthetics, particularly with children with special music abilities or needs and on the autism spectrum.

Outside of academia, he is the chair of trustees for the Amber Trust, a UK charity that supports blind and partially sighted children in their pursuit of music, which he founded in 1994. He has worked with young people who are blind or partially sighted for over the last 40 years, at Linden Lodge School in Wandsworth and the RNIB. He is also the Secretary of the Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research ('SEMPRE') and Chair of Soundabout, an Oxfordshire-based charity that supports music provision for children and young people with complex needs.

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May 20, 2022

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