By Dan Coles and William Lailey
A man who was born with only one arm but has become the world’s only one-handed professional pianist.
Nicholas McCarthy, 30, from Tadworth, Surrey, was told at his first audition for a music school that he should stop trying to learn because he was wasting his time.
Nicholas, however, has had the last laugh after becoming the first and only known one-handed pianist to graduate from the Royal College of Music, and now tours the world performing.
Nicholas now aims to show people in a similar position that no matter what life throws at you, with enough dedication and spirit they can beat their odds and follow their dreams.
Nicholas said: “I was always drawn to the piano, even in primary school when we had assembly the piano was the most attractive part to me.
“Being told I could never be a pianist was crushing, it was as if I had been told that through no fault of my own, I could never have the career I dreamt of!”
“I was always creative, and I was always drawn to anything that I could make – so much so that in my youth I first wanted to be a chef.
“I don’t think it mattered what it was, as long as it involved putting ingredients in any format together to make something new.
“Knowing what I wanted to do when I was young helped massively because I had that sense of teenage invincibility so I couldn’t see any limitations in myself.
“If I had been older I probably would of let myself believe that I could not play the piano and maybe never would of tried.
“I had to trust my instincts and it had paid off so much, people don’t look at me and see the missing arm anymore.
“I think when I started, the attraction was that I had one arm, but after they hear me it’s the music that stays with them, if they closed their eyes they usually would have no idea I only had one arm.
“I’ve always been really determined, riding a bike, cooking, drawing, whatever it was I was interested in it.”
Since he was a child, Nicholas has always had to answer questions about his condition but believes that it’s always more about curiosity, rather than being singled out.
He said: “I would not say I was bullied because I think bullying is systematic, but I have had my fair share of names like anyone else growing up.
“I have always been very lucky with being a bit witty , I have a quick tongue so I was always good at answering back and I think that really helped.
“I would be a liar if I said it was not hurtful, but thankfully they were well spaced out and isolated.”
Nicholas graduated from the Royal College of Music in 2012 and was the first person to do so with one arm, something his previous teachers had told him he would never be able to do.
“When I was 14 I had that Eureka moment, when a friend played a piece of Beethoven in assembly, suddenly everything made sense to me and I thought this is what I want to do”
“When people told me I would never be able to become a pianist I couldn’t accept it, being told you can’t follow your passion because of something out of your control does not make sense to me.
“It meant so much to be to graduate from the Royal College of Music, who were so supportive, and to be the first pianist with one arm to graduate from there in over 130 years was exciting for me!”
Nicholas has now been playing piano for 16 years, starting when he was 14, and has toured his music across the world in China, South Korea, Japan, the U.S, Kazakhstan and Europe as well as playing the closing ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic games alongside Coldplay.
Nicholas said: “I would love to see other people like myself get into music if it’s what they love, I don’t like the idea that anyone can be told not to do what they love before even being given the chance to try.
“I think now it’s about building a legacy and leaving a mark on the industry I have so much passion for.”