One-handed pianist overcomes critics, plays on international stage


At 23, pianist Nicholas McCarthy has released his own album, received the International AMI Award for creative excellence in music, and come Friday, will play in the offices of the prime minister of Malta.

McCarthy, by the way, was born without a right hand.

Inspired by a Beethoven sonata, McCarthy started piano lessons when he was 14 at his home in Tadworth, Britain, and three years later, was accepted to London’s Guild Hall School of Music and Drama.

McCarthy recently became the first one-handed pianist to graduate from the Royal College of Music in London, and is on the verge of a career as an international performer after wowing professionals and crowds with his seamless playing.


But critics weren’t always so kind: When he was a teenager, music school officials denied him an audition, citing his disability.

“It was soul-crushing because that’s all I wanted to do,” he told the BBC. “I could feel it would be an uphill struggle, but it made me more determined. I’m quite a stubborn character.”

McCarthy’s repertoire includes a rather obscure collection of left-handed pieces mainly arranged to impress audiences, including Ravel’s “Piano Concerto of the Left Hand” and Scriabin’s “Prelude and Nocturne.” He also plays works by Paul Wittgenstein composed for his brother Ludwig Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm in World War I.

McCarthy is a member of paraorchestra, Britain’s first disabled orchestra, and said he hopes for a record deal, a spot at New York’s Carnegie Hall and that his story will inspire others.

“If you believe in yourself, anything is possible,” he said.


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