David Helfgott (born May 19, 1947) is an Australian concert pianist. He is as well-known for having schizoaffective disorder as for his piano playing.He was born in Melbourne to Polish-Jewish parents. He became known as a child prodigy after his father started teaching him the piano when he was six.
When he was ten years old he studied under Frank Arndt, a Perth piano teacher, and won several local competitions, sometimes alone and sometimes with his elder sister Margaret Helfgott.When David was fourteen, various interested people such as Perth composer James Penberthy and writer Katharine Susannah Prichard, raised money to enable him to go to the United States to study music.
However, his father denied him permission, on the grounds that he was not ready for independence (and presumably the indications of mental illness).When he was nineteen, he won a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music in London, England for three years, where he studied under Cyril Smith.
During his time in London he began showing more definite manifestations of mental illness. His doctor in Australia, Chris Reynolds, whom he met some twenty years later, said that he suffers from an acute anxiety neurosis.
He returned to Perth in 1970, and married his first wife, Clara, in 1971. He also took part in several Australian Broadcasting Corporation concerts. After his marriage broke down he was institutionalised in Graylands, a Perth mental hospital.
Over the next ten years, he underwent psychiatric treatment which included psychotropic medication and electroconvulsive therapy.Helfgott's life inspired the Oscar-winning film, Shine, directed by Scott Hicks and starring Geoffrey Rush and Noah Taylor.
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