With creative:space London just around the corner, our most recent patron Nicholas McCarthy talks to BBC Music Magazine about the importance of role models for disabled musicians and how Create is making music more inclusive. “When I was at school I didn’t get the opportunity to learn music. When I became interested in playing the piano at 14 years old, I began applying to specialist schools that shared my passion for making music and that seemed to offer the support that I would need in order to develop my playing technique. I always thought of music as a very inclusive discipline, but the first school I applied to turned me down, solely because the head teacher refused to take me seriously because I only had one hand.
It seemed ridiculous to her that I should even think about pursuing my dreams of becoming a professional pianist. The fact that this teacher saw my physicality as a barrier to music making implied that she had never heard of a disabled pianist, perhaps even a disabled musician. She had focused on what I couldn’t do without a right hand, rather than what I could do with my left hand. I wonder how many other young people have been discouraged from music making in similar situations?
In the case I just mentioned, I had been judged on my disability rather than my ability as a musician and a potential professional performer. The enthusiasm was there to start learning music, but the barrier that I faced was a lack of awareness of disabled musicians.”