One-handed pianist Nicholas McCarthy defies odds, graduates from Royal College
The piano is on my mind. Having managed to sneak away from work for a few days of R&R, I figured my time off would be a good opportunity to have some fun with keyboard pieces I recently purchased.
(Yes, although I am addicted to the International Music Score Library Project and all the fabulous free goodies available there for downloading, I also still buy things from time to time -- and for that, it's hard to beat Sheet Music Plus, if you ask me.)
So, in between eating bonbons, I've been struggling through the "Orphee" Suite by Philip Glass and William Bolcom's concert paraphrase of the gorgeous aria "New York Lights" from his opera "A View From the Bridge" (if I had known that one was written with a zillion sharps, I might not have bought it).
After one bumpy session with those works, I headed for the computer to seek some distraction and happily discovered, thanks to Musical America, a terrifically inspiring story from England. It quickly put my complaints about myself in perspective.
Meet pianist Nicholas McCarthy. He was born without a right hand.
He taught himself to play at the age of ...
14 and set out to get formal training. Naturally, some folks told McCarthy to forget all about being a musician. One school even refused to let him audition.
But he persevered, and, at 17, McCarthy was admitted to London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he won the top piano prize. He went on to study at the Royal College of Music and, at 23, graduated last month.
We are used to hearing about two-handed pianists who, at some point along the way, lose the use of their right hand -- Leon Fleisher, longtime local hero here in Baltimore, is a prime case in point. But to start with that disadvantage, to have only left-hand repertoire as an option from the start, that's a whole different thing.
McCarthy's heartwarming story -- as well as that of the British Paraorchestra for disabled players that he performs with -- says so much about the potential of the human spirit and the magnetic force of music. I wish him well. (And, now, when I get back to the piano to face my own little hurdles, I'll be in a much better frame of mind.)
PHOTO FROM NICHOLASMCCARTHY.CO.UK