THE ONE AND ONLY ...
NICHOLAS MCCARTHY: IPSWICH SCHOOL FESTIVAL OF MUSIC OCT 12-17
AS a teenager seeking his first place at a school for young pianists, Nicholas McCarthy was refused an audition and told not to waste his time trying. Nicholas, born without his right hand, would never make it, he was told. This month, when Nicholas performs at Ipswich School Festival of Music, he will doubtless prove them wrong and be a huge inspiration to those who witness his incredible talent.
Nicholas was born and brought up in Epsom, Surrey, where he lived until 2013 when he moved to Colchester. Early life was generally good, he says. His parents never allowed him to feel different and he found ways around doing ‘two handed’ things with his one. He took up the piano at the relatively late age of 14 after seeing a friend play the piano in school assembly.
“I initially wanted to be a chef – for some reason I was always attracted to these two handed jobs. As soon as I started to learn the piano I knew that I wanted to perform for my career.” Being born without his right hand wasn’t a great struggle because it was the only thing he knew.
“It would be a completely different story if I had lost my arm in an accident,” he says. His first tutor was a local piano teacher, who still goes to his concerts.
“I set my sights on a local piano school, but couldn’t even get an audition as they believed it would be impossible for me to seriously study piano. It was a real knock, but I learnt from it. I set my sights at Junior Guildhall – I was 16 – and decided not to tell them I had one hand until they saw me play. After that I set my sights on the Royal College of Music. That began a happy and enriching time, culminating in being the first one-handed musician to graduate in its 135-year history.” Nicholas is thankful and feels lucky to have a career as a professional musician, but says he has many more things he’d like to achieve.
“I hope I may be challenging attitudes and opening up opportunities for pianists like me in the future.” As well as classical, he loves contemporary artists like Adele, Amy Winehouse and Emeli Sande.
“Artists who have a uniqueness about them appeal to me a lot. My favorite pianist is Martha Augerich.” Nicholas’ latest album of Bach and Rachmaninoff was recorded in Suffolk, a county with which he feels a deep affinity as he was Musician in Residence and a Patron of the Music School at Ipswich School.
“Music education is very important to me. I love the Ipswich School Music Festival as it always has such diverse and fantastic acts, so to be part of it this year is really exciting. I’m looking forward to playing in the gorgeous hall. I have performed there before and it has such a great acoustic.
Afternoon Tea Concert with Nicholas McCarthy. Sunday, October 15, 2pm – Ipswich School Great School Concert Hall, Ivry Street. All tickets £15 including tea and cakes. For bookings, full line-up and information about the festival 01473 295900 or www. wolseytheatre.co.uk
National Youth Choir appearing at Ipswich School Festival of Music