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  1. Wealth
August 16, 2012

Nicholas McCarthy, the First One-Handed Pianist to Graduate from the Royal College of Music

By Spear's

Mark Nayler is inspired by Nicholas McCarthy, the first one-handed pianist to graduate from London’s Royal College of Music.

Despite being told by an early piano teacher that he should not waste his time with the instrument, Nicholas McCarthy became the first one-handed pianist to graduate from London’s Royal College of Music last month. He will also be the piano soloist when the British Paraorchestra performs a welcome concert for the world’s Paralympic teams on the 28 August. Ahead of a sports tournament that celebrates the achievement of sporting excellence despite physical disability, McCarthy’s remarkable virtuosity at the keyboard reminds us that, with courage and ambition, anything is possible. 

Nicholas McCarthy, the first one-handed pianist to graduate from London’s Royal College of Music

The 23 year old was born without his right hand and, despite teaching himself at a very early age to play a keyboard with just his left hand, he didn’t start piano lessons until the ripe old age of fourteen. He heard a friend playing Beethoven’s ‘Waldstein’ sonata and decided on the spot he wanted to be a concert pianist.

Choosing to eschew the defeatism of that early teacher – and one imagines, many more such sceptics – he worked hard on developing the speed, accuracy and stamina necessary to cover all 88 keys with just one hand, and at 17 was awarded a place at the junior department of London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He then progressed to The Royal College of Music, graduating last month with a 50 minute solo recital. According to the College’s Head of Keyboard, Professor Vanessa Latarche, ‘he has been a great inspiration to many of his fellow students in showing what it is possible to achieve with a disability’.

One hopes that McCarthy successfully makes the difficult transition from talented graduate to professional musician. But with the upcoming Paralympic concert, a performance next month in Malta at the offices of the country’s Prime Minister, and a yet-to-be confirmed appearance at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall later on in the year, things look good.  After his triumphant graduation recital, Nicholas’s father Ray had this to say: ‘You can allow yourself to be defined by society, by colour, race, creed or disability, but if you decide you’re not going to, the world’s your oyster’. McCarthy, the British Paraorchestra and the world’s paralympians prove how true this is.
See Nicholas McCarthy Perform:

Read more by Mark Nayler


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