Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Derek Paravicini the Musical Genius

More on Derek:
Meet Derek, the amazing human iPod
May 18, 2010 - 3:45PM
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Derek Paravicini ... "He can hear a song just once and play it back perfectly". Photo: Getty Images
Blind and severly autistic, pianist Derek Paravicini is on the brink of international stardom.

Blind and severely autistic, pianist Derek Paravicini is on the brink of international stardom.

With his right ear cocked forward slightly and the faintest curl of a smile at the corners of his mouth, Derek Paravicini's fingers dance across the keys of the grand piano. This blind, severely autistic 30 year-old man is coaxing a sad and beautiful tune from the instrument that causes the hairs on the back of my neck to stand on end. Exchanging glances with others in the room, it is clear I am not alone.

In this tatty university teaching room in west London, Derek is delivering a performance worthy of a concert pianist. Standing behind him, arms behind his back, his mentor and coach, Professor Adam Ockelford, a music psychologist at Roehampton University, listens intently.

"He's just made this one up on the spot," says Prof Ockelford. "I have never heard anyone play quite like Derek. He can hear a song just once and play it back perfectly, adapting it and improvising along the way. He has thousands of pieces in his repertoire now."

A few moments earlier, Derek had played Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee in C sharp and then in D minor - it was written in A minor - at my request. When he does not recognise the next piece I ask him to play, he assures me he will play me something else he thinks I will like. Entirely improvised, he produces a piece of music on the spot. It is magical.

"I like the piano, Richard!" booms Derek. He is lively and enthusiastic despite his disability, shaking hands with everyone he meets, learning their names, and using them at any opportunity.

Last Thursday, Derek made legal history when his family were given legal control of his affairs in the first case of its kind to be heard in public. Derek's parents Nicolas and Mary Ann, the sister of Andrew Parker Bowles, former husband of the Duchess of Cornwall, were given the power to make decisions for him about where he should live and how often he should perform.

Despite Derek's extraordinary talent, he requires round-the-clock care and help with even the simplest of tasks such as dressing and washing. He lives in a residential care home in Redhill, Surrey, run by the Royal National Institute for the Blind. The charity opposed his family's request to take over these decisions for fear he may fall victim to commercial pressures, and wanted an independent guardian to be appointed - but the court ruled otherwise.

"It is nice to have a say in what happens to our own son," says Mary Ann. "We want to make sure we can give him a wonderful life. It is just a shame we had to go to court to do it, but we understand the RNIB's job to make sure people in their care are going to be all right."

Derek's parents have been caring for him for almost his entire life. Born 25 weeks premature, he was delivered alongside a twin sister, who did not survive. He spent three weeks in an incubator, as doctors tried to keep him alive, but during this time he received too much oxygen, robbing him of his sight and leading to severe learning difficulties.

"It was remarkable that he lived at all," recalls Mary Ann. "He had trouble speaking and still can't read or count to more than a few figures."

Aged two, Derek first encountered a musical instrument - a toy organ. The family had hoped it would help to keep him amused, but instead Derek did something amazing. "He would play back nursery rhymes and songs he had heard on programmes," says Mary Ann.

Derek would sit on his father's lap as Nicolas played the family's electric organ. Aged three, he began taking over, hitting the keys with any part of his body. "He used his elbows, he even used his nose," says Nicolas. "He didn't know you were supposed to use only your fingers, but he would play the most extraordinary music.

"Everything he hears, he retains. He can play something he learnt 20 years ago."

Derek's parents, who are now divorced, say that growing up was difficult and frustrating for the severely disabled youngster. At five years old, he played so hard and with such energy that he broke his first piano three times. The tuners refused to repair it again.

In time, his ability to learn musical pieces by heart after just one hearing earned him the nickname of the "Human iPod". And his repertoire is impressive - everything from the jazz of Art Tatum to the Beatles' Eleanor Rigby. His skill, however, goes far beyond simply being able to mimic music, since he also improvises, adapts and composes.

Performance-assessment certificates from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music line the walls at Mary Ann's house. Dating from 1994, when Derek was 15, they point to his raw talent. One reads: "Consider the composer's different styles. You are there to interpret a composer's own feelings as well as presenting your own."

Derek's verbal skills are limited. Although his articulation is clear, his ability to hold a conversation is impaired, and he echoes everything said to him. Instead, he uses music to express his feelings.

"It is a wonderful compensation for his disabilities," explains Nicolas. "He loves people and his interaction with them is through music and playing something for them."

One of his favourite pieces is Culture Club's Karma Chameleon played in a ragtime style. "It took us quite a long time to teach Derek about styles," says Prof Ockelford. "While pieces are straightforward for him to understand, style is more abstract."

Derek is a savant - a poorly understood condition that gives sufferers extraordinary mental abilities. Neurologists still struggle to explain the combination of extreme talent and disability, but most agree that the brain becomes somehow hypersensitised to compensate for damage to other areas that typically process language and comprehension. Scans on Derek have suggested the part of his brain that would normally be used for sight may have been used to enhance his auditory ability.

"Derek has got absolute pitch," says Prof Ockelford. "It means he can identify every note in a chord. Each one is a different creature for him so he hears them all. It is a rare gift."

To demonstrate, Prof Ockelford plays a nine-note chord on the piano. In response, Derek plays each of the notes individually in ascending sequence. Most musicians can pick out only five notes from a chord. Derek can distinguish up to 20.

As his teacher for more than 25 years, Prof Ockelford has an almost paternal relationship with his young prodigy. The pair met when Derek was four and Prof Ockelford was a music teacher at Linden Lodge - a school for the blind in south-west London. Derek's parents were looking around the school when, on hearing a student playing the piano, Derek rushed over, knocking her off the stool, and began to play Don't Cry for me Argentina.

"He was playing with his elbows, fists and his nose," recalls Prof Ockelford. "At first I thought he was a bit mad, but as he played and I recognised what he was playing, I realised he was unlike anyone I had seen before. I never dreamt he would be on the brink of an international music career 25 years later."

At the age of nine, Derek played his first major concert, at the Barbican in London. The applause had a huge impact, causing him to rise to his feet and tremble with adrenalin.

Since then Derek has played several concerts. He has never been paid, playing mostly for charity, and his audiences vary from dementia patients, who thrive on the old songs he produces on request, to celebrities. He has played twice at Downing Street - for Tony Blair and for Gordon Brown. He has even played requests for Hugh Grant.

"I like having an audience when they clap me," says Derek. "I don't get nervous before playing."

In performance, his personality - a cheeky, happy and rambunctious young man - comes through. He loves jazz.

He also displays flashes of humour. When playing for the former chancellor Alistair Darling earlier this year, he launched into a rendition of Big Spender. Mr Darling apparently quipped: "Not under the current budget."

Derek is excited about two upcoming concerts at a charity auction at Sotheby's and at the Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival. And his family hope, with the court ruling, that he will finally be able to earn a living from his talent. He is hoping to do a series of mini-tours in the US where he is well-known after appearing twice on the popular CBS News program 60 Minutes. There is also talk of getting a professional recording deal.

"We hope that he might be able to start earning a living for himself," says Nicolas. "It is a big step towards getting a normal life. With his own income, he might be able to leave residential care, get his own home, and have a carer live there with him. Ultimately, though, this is a chance for him to keep doing what he loves."

When I ask Derek how his music makes him feel, his response is surprisingly muted. "I feel all right, Richard," he says after a pause.

His enthusiasm to stop talking and play me another piece suggests he has understated his feelings considerably. As he plays he rocks and sways his head with the music as he gets into a groove. Then he bursts into song.

Making music is clearly what Derek likes best.

The Telegraph, London

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Original Song

44 Years Later

Eduard Trololo Khil address to the people of the world!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Is Michael Jackson Alive?

Website claims Jackson 'still alive, in disguise'

A website that claims Michael Jackson is masquerading as a severely disfigured man has become an internet sensation, attracting over one million hits per day.

An administrator from michaeljacksonhoaxforum.com claims Jackson appeared on the Larry King talk show in disguise on the day of his funeral last year, The Sun newspaper reports.

FIX: The ten most bizarre MJ rumours

Hoax believers say Jackson is impersonating a man he befriended years ago — Dave Dave — who was severely burned in 1983 after his father doused him with kerosene and set him alight.
Dave, now 33 and living in Utah, said Jackson "accepted him" and "never let go".

"He took me into his life, which is very rare for Michael to do," he said.

Bloggers noted after Dave's appearance on the Larry King Show last year that his voice was of a similar pitch to Jackson's and that his mannerisms were the same.

Dave's eye colour also reportedly changed from green/blue to brown.

The comparisons have led to speculation that Dave's facial scarring would provide the perfect cover for Jackson, who died aged 50 in June last year.

Souza, an administrator from the hoax website, said: "Michael Jackson attended Larry King Live on the day of the funeral disguised as Dave Dave."

Souza runs the website with her friend Mo. They both call themselves "Death Hoax Investigators".

"The media told us two different stories," Souza was quoted as saying.

"TMZ.com reported he died six minutes before the doctor pronounced him dead, and CNN kept telling us he was in a coma ... what really happened still remains a mystery."

Dave's spokesman Brian Oxman rubbished the claims, saying the world was still grieving for Jackson.

"He was so remarkable that people find it difficult to believe he is no longer with us," Mr Oxman was quoted as saying.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Where were teachers like this when I was in school?

teacher03For Teacher Appreciation Week, we would like to honor those educators for their excellent quality of service. At same time, we would also like to use this opportunity to point out those who exploit their role as teachers to prey on children. In this article, we’ll focus on female teachers who turned pedophiles. We at Gunaxin do not condone such sexual misconduct by any means, but let’s admit it, some of these crazy women are hot. While no parents would want their children to be molested by these predators, we, as grown men, would wish they were around to satisfy our fantasies when we were teenagers. Male predators, however, will never be viewed and treated the same way, and I acknowledge the double standard.

To help you realize how hot some of these female predators are, we have compiled a list of the top twenty-five hottest sex offenders in no particular order. If you are offended by this list, nobody is forcing you to read this.


1. Pamela Rogers

Rogers is a former elementary school physical education teacher and coach at Centertown Elementary School in McMinnville, Tennessee. She was also the Ms. Monday Nitro in WCW at Spring Break festivities.

Her Crime: At age 29, Rogers was charged for having a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old male student. She and the boy performed both vaginal and oral sex more than a dozen times, in the school, in her house, and in the teen’s home during the three-month relationship.

Verdict: Seven years in prison.


2. Sheral Lee Smith

Smith is a former teacher at New Summit School in Jackson, Mississippi.

Her Crime: At age 37, Smith was charged with statutory rape and transfer of a controlled substance involving a 14 year old student. Their relationship began before she started teaching in the school.

Verdict: No verdict has been made yet.


3. Debra Lafave

Perhaps the most notorious female sex offender in recent years, Lafave is a former teacher at Angelo L. Greco Middle School in Temple Terrace, Florida. At age 18, she briefly worked as a model for magazines. Provocative modeling photographs of Lafave had circulated on the Internet since she first gained notoriety.

Her Crime: At age 23, Lafave was charged with statutory rape involving a 14-year-old male student in Angelo L. Greco Middle School.

Verdict: Three years of Community Control (house arrest) and seven years probation, along with various other requirements.


4. Amber Jennings

Jennings is a former English teacher at Shepherd Hill Regional High School in Dudley, Massachusetts.

Her Crime: At age 32, Jennings started having sex with a 16-year-old student in 2003. They videotaped their romps and e-mailed naked photos and messages to each other.

Verdict: Two years probation for disseminating harmful materials to a minor. She was not required to register as a sex offender.


5. Amy McElhenney

McElhenney is a former Spanish teacher and was a cross-country coach at Hebron High School in Carrollton, Texas. She is also a Miss Texas contestant.

Her Crime: At age 25, McElhenney was charged with having sex with an 18-year-old student on numerous occasions at her apartment (Texas law prohibits sexual relationships between educators and students even if the sex is consensual and the student is of legal age).

Verdict: No verdict has been made yet.


6. Christine Marie Johanson

Johanson is a former teacher’s assistant at Hudson Park Elementary School in Rainer, Oregon.

Her Crime: At age 35, Johanson was charged for having sex with a 15-year-old male.

Verdict: One year in jail.


7. Cameo Patch

Patch is a former substitute teacher at Tooele High School in Tooele County, Utah.

Her Crime: At age 29, Patch was charged with having sex with a 17-year-old student.

Verdict: No jail time.


8. Christine Scarlett

Scarlett is a former special education substitute teacher at Strongsville High School in Strongsville, Ohio.

Her Crime: At age 39, Scarlett was charged with having sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student. The affair got her pregnant with his baby. They now share custody of their two-year-old son.

Verdict: Three days in the county jail, six months electronic home monitoring, and five years probation.


9. Angela Comer

Comer is a former 8th grade math teacher in Kentucky.

Her Crime: At age 26, Comer was charged having sex with a 14-year-old student and fleeing to Mexico with the boy and her four-year-old autistic son.

Verdict: 10 years in prison.


10. Sandra Geisel

Geisel, a mother of four, is a former teacher at Christian Brothers Academy High School in New York.

Her Crime: At age 42, Geisel was charged with raping a 16-year-old male student twice. She faces additional charges for a third alleged tryst with the boy.

Verdict: No verdict has been made yet.


11. Lindsay Massaro

Massaro is a former teacher at Centenary College in Sussex County, New Jersey.

Her Crime: At age 23, Massaro was charged with sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a minor and criminal sexual contact.

Verdict: No verdict has been made yet.


12. Margaret De Barraicua

De Barraicua is a former intern teacher at McClatchy High School in Sacramento, California.

Her Crime: At age 30, De Barraicua was charged with having sex with a 16-year-old special education student.

Verdict: One year in jail and five years probation.


13. Rebecca Bogard

Bogard is a former teacher at Fernwood Alternative School in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Her Crime: At age 27, Bogard was charged with having sexual contact with a 15-year-old student.

Verdict: No verdict has been made yet.


14. Carrie McCandless

McCandless is a former English teacher at Brighton Charter High School and wife of the school’s principal in Brighton, Colorado.

Her Crime: At age 29, McCandless was charged with having sex with a 17-year-old male student during a school-sponsored camping trip to the Rockies.

Verdict: Five years of supervised probation.


15. Mary Kay Letourneau

Letourneau is most infamous female sex offender in the 90s. She is a former elementary school teacher in Shorewood Elementary School in Burien, Washington. She was the daughter of John Schmitz, who ran for President of the United States in 1972 on the American Independent Party ticket.

Her Crime: At age 34, Letourneau was charged with statutory rape involving her 13-year-old student, Vili Fualaau. She later gave birth to his daughter while she was in prison. After her release, they got married and had more children.

Verdict: Seven and a half years in prison.


16. Jill Lewis

Lewis is a former speech, journalism and computer teacher at Living Stones Christian School in Alvin, Texas.

Her Crime: At age 26, Lewis was charged with having sexual relationship with a 17-year-old male student.

Verdict: Verdict has been made yet.


17. Nicole Long

Long is a former English teacher at Ayersville High School in Defiance, Ohio.

Her Crime: At age 29, Long was charged with having sex with a 17-year-old male student.

Verdict: 3 months in prison.


18. Allenna Ward

Ward is a former teacher at Bell Street Middle School in Laurens County, South Carolina.

Her Crime: At age 24, Ward was charged with engaging in sexual acts with five boys between the age of 14 to 15 years old. Some of the boys were students at her school.

Verdict: No verdict has been made.


19. Janelle Batkins

Batkins is a former French teacher at Roseville High School in Roseville, California.

Her Crime: At age 42, Batkins was charged with having sex with a 17-year-old male student.

Verdict: Three years probation and 240 hours of community service.


20. Loni Folks

Folks is a former fifth-grade teacher at W.L. Smith Elementary in Petal, Mississippi.

Her Crime: At age 24, Folks was charged with sexual battery of a 16-year-old male student.

Verdict: A suspended 12 years prison sentence and five years probation.


21. Amanda Athey

Athey is a former English teacher at Hopewell High School in Huntersville, N.C.

Her Crime: Age age 27, Athey was charged with having sexual relationship with her 16-year-old female student.

Verdict: No verdict has been made yet.


22. Amy Northcutt

NorthCutt is a former history teacher at Turlock Christian School in Turlock, California.

Her Crime: At age 26, Amy Northcutt, along with her husband Justin Northcutt, were arrested for sending erotic text messages to a 16-year-old female student and attempting to arrange group sex with her.

Verdict: No verdict has been made yet.


23. Joy Blackstock

Blackstock is a former chorus teacher at Early High School in Early, Texas.

Her Crime: At age 23, Blackstock was charged with having a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old male student while employed as a teacher at the school (Texas law prohibits sexual relationships between educators and students even if the sex is consensual and the student is of legal age).

Verdict: No verdict has been made yet.


24. Stephanie Ragusa

Ragusa is a former teacher at Davidsen Middle School in Tampa, Florida.

Her Crime: At age 28, Ragusa was arrested three times and charged with having sex with two 15-year-old students.

Verdict: No verdict has been made yet.


25. Nicole Andrea Barnhart

Barnhart is a former social studies teacher at Ponderosa High School in Denver, Colorado.

Her Crime: At age 35, Barnhart is charged with having sex with a 16-year-old male student.

Verdict: Two years in prison and ten years probation.



Pamela Smart

In 1990, a 23-year-old beautiful media coordinator named Pamela Smart at Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, New Hampshire shocked the world when she was arrested and convicted for conspiring with her 15-year-old lover, William Flynn, and his three friends to kill her 24-year-old husband. Smart failed to make the list since she was more of a murderer than a sex offender.

Verdict: Life in prison.


Heather Shelton

What is more ridiculous than a teacher being charged with having sex with an 18-year-old student in Texas? Meet Heather Shelton, a 22-year-old teacher’s assistant at North Buncombe High School in North Carolina was charged with having sex with a 19-year-old student. In North Carolina, it is a felony for any teacher to have sex with a student regardless of the age of the student. What was more ridiculous was that the man wasn’t even her student and the two didn’t meet at the school. Because Shelton was found not guilty shortly after her arrest, we cannot include her on our list.

Verdict: Not Guilty.

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