Page 3 Profile: Nicholas McCarthy, one-handed piano player


A one-handed piano player?

As far as Nicholas McCarthy is concerned, having just one hand isn't a disability. The 23-year-old from Tadworth, Surrey, was born with a shortened right arm, but his parents made sure he never missed out. He played as a junior at the Guildhall School of Music and this month he became the first one-handed pianist known to have graduated from the Royal College of Music.

Was he a child prodigy?

He only began learning the piano at 14 after hearing a friend play a Beethoven sonata. His parents bought him an electronic keyboard from Argos, and from then on his talents developed at a frightening pace. Some audiences even thought he was accompanied by a backing track. His first piano teacher urged him to apply to music school, but the school refused to give 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 more determined. I'm quite a stubborn character."

He certainly had the last laugh

Professor Vanessa Latarche, head of keyboard music at the Royal College of Music, was more appreciative, saying: "He has been a great inspiration to many of his fellow students in showing what it is possible to achieve with a disability." McCarthy kept up with his able-bodied contemporaries by playing pieces written for single-handed pianists. The little-known works were composed by Paul Wittgenstein, the pianist brother of the philosopher Ludwig, who lost his arm in the First World War.