“I don’t really want to play scales; I want to play music!” – Nicholas McCarthy
Nicholas McCarthy (@NMcCarthyPiano) was born in 1989 without his right hand and only started to play the piano at the age of 14.
He was told he would never succeed as a concert pianist.
Fortunately, the doubters were wrong. His graduation from the prestigious Royal College of Music in London in 2012 appeared in press around the world, as he became the only one-handed pianist to graduate from the Royal College of Music in its 130-year history.
Nicholas has now performed extensively throughout the world, including the U.K., U.S., South Africa, South Korea, Japan, Malta, and Kazakhstan. He has also played alongside Coldplay and given a rendition of the Paralympic Anthem in front of an audience of 86,000 people and half a billion worldwide viewers.
His first album, entitled Solo (Warner Music) features 17 stunning pieces of left-hand repertoire spanning three centuries and has been released around the world to great acclaim.
If you only have 5 minutes, I recommend Nicholas’s thoughts on playing the long game vs. instant fame.
This was a blast of an interview, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks for listening.
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- Stream by clicking here.
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Want to hear another podcast with a mega-successful performer? — Listen to my conversation with Jamie Foxx. In this episode, we discuss his workout routines, untold Hollywood stories, and he shares many of his best impressions. (Stream below or right-click here to download):
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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
Selected Links from the Episode
- Connect with Nicholas McCarthy:
- Solo by Nicholas McCarthy
- Yamaha CFX Concert Grand, Nicholas’s piano of choice
- Royal College of Music in London
- Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata
- Music by Liszt
- Britain’s Got Talent
- Junior Guildhall School of Music & Drama
- Paul Wittgenstein: The Man with the Golden Arm by Melissa Lesnie, Limelight
- A Princess Bride moment
- Piano Concerto for the Left Hand by Maurice Ravel
- Summertime by George Gershwin
- The Life and Loves of a He Devil by Graham Norton
- I Put A Spell On You: The Autobiography Of Nina Simone by Nina Simone
- Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi
- Sole Determination: Nicholas McCarthy at TEDx Albertopolis
- Proms: The World’s Greatest Classical Music Festival
- Vivaldi: The Four Seasons performed by Nigel Kennedy
- Martha Argerich videos on YouTube
- How to Achieve the Home of Your Dreams by Kelly Hoppen
- Hill House Interiors
- Neal’s Yard Remedies
- Barrel saunas
- Frankincense oil
- Geranium oil
- Nicholas McCarthy appears by kind permission of Warner Classics, www.warnerclassics.com
- The inspiration to become a concert pianist at age 14. [05:24]
- How Nicholas went from being an obsessed self-starter to getting his parents to pay for lessons. [11:15]
- Nicholas explains left-handed repertoire, his initial resistance, and how his teacher changed his mind. [12:46]
- Why Nicholas never took the offer to play on Britain’s Got Talent (in spite of being a big fan of the show). [16:15]
- For a two-handed pianist, what does each hand generally do — and what challenges does a left-hand dominant player face? [20:56]
- Nicholas talks about applying to music schools and dealing with rejection. [24:48]
- Paul Wittgenstein’s influence on left-handed repertoire. [32:06]
- What’s the difference between arranging and composing music? [36:06]
- Nicholas on his love of food and desire to be a chef. [40:28]
- Having performed around the globe, what does Nicholas notice about different audiences worldwide? [42:57]
- When Nicholas hears the word “successful,” who comes to mind? [45:01]
- What advice would Nicholas give to his 20-year-old self? [48:45]
- How does Nicholas deal with negativity? [50:12]
- What would be on Nicholas’s billboard? [52:01]
- Nicholas shares his morning routines. [53:36]
- How Nicholas approaches the building of his own brand. [55:42]
- While being an overall positive person, Nicholas shares the closest thing he’s had to a favorite failure. [57:17]
- Nicholas’s best investment in money, time, and energy. [1:01:33]
- If Nicholas could design a curriculum to teach piano, how would he diverge from the way it’s taught now? [1:06:18]
- Lesser-known composers Nicholas recommends. [1:08:50]
- Bad advice Nicholas has heard (and ignored). [1:10:08]
- The best meal Nicholas has ever had. [1:13:56]
- Nicholas geeks out about interior design. [1:15:27]
- The benefits of aromatherapy. [1:18:17]
- Ludwig van Beethoven,
- Frederic Chopin
- Franz Liszt
- Sergei Rachmaninoff
- Eric Weinstein
- Lucy Parham
- Paul Wittgenstein
- Ludwig Wittgenstein
- Maurice Ravel
- George Gershwin
- Paul Levesque (Triple H)
- Bethenny Frankel
- Lang Lang
- Graham Norton
- Nina Simone
- Nigel Kennedy
- Andrew Keener
- Johann Sebastian Bach
- Sergey Prokofiev
- Dmitry Kabalevsky
- Martha Argerich
- Kelly Hoppen
- Laird Hamilton
- Rick Rubin
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.