John McCarthyʼs life in music includes that of pianist, distinguished pedagogue, arts administrator and educational consultant.
McCarthy has appeared with the San Francisco Symphony in Davies Symphony Hall and at the Ojai Festival with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. The John and Annamarie McCarthy Piano Duo has presented numerous performances at Stanford University, the Bracebridge Concerts at Yosemite National Park, and at CAMI (Columbia Artist Management Hall) in New York City. McCarthyʼs many involvements in contemporary music include ﬁrst performances of works by Gerard Grisey and Frederic Rzewski, as well as recording for Composer Recording Society.
John McCarthy relocated from New York to accept a full scholarship from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. After graduation, he was immediately appointed to the faculty, a position he has held since 1972. Principal teachers include Martin Canin in New York, Katja Andy in Boston, Bernard Abramowitsch, Robert Helps, Thomas LaRatta, and Milton & Peggy Salkind in San Francisco.
John McCarthy is widely recognized as one of today’s leading pedagogues. In 2006, he was one of three teachers of classical music in the nation to receive a Distinguished Teacher Award from the Department of Education and the White House Committee on Presidential Scholars in the Arts, at a ceremony in Washington D.C. This honor was awarded to him again in 2013, acknowledging his “substantial contributions to the development of our nation’s young people.” His students have appeared as concerto soloists with the Philharmonia Baroque, Royal Scottish National Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, California Symphony, and with several youth orchestras, including San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra and California Youth Symphony. They have performed at the Gewandhaus in Germany, the Verbier Festival in Switzerland, the Kennedy Center, in San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall, at Disney Hall in Los Angeles, and on the nationally televised “From the Top at Carnegie Hall.”
McCarthyʼs students have received numerous awards, including a Davidson Fellowship, and three students have been named Presidential Scholars in the Arts. They have received first prizes at the International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition in Leipzig, the Scottish International Piano Competition, Stravinsky International Piano Competition, the International Bach Competition in Wurzburg, the Rosalyn Tureck International Bach Competition in New York City, the Corpus Christi and Lennox International Young Artist Competitions in Texas, and competitions in Ukraine and Armenia. Six students have been named winners by the National YoungArts Award Foundation.
In 2011, McCarthy was bestowed the title of “Director Emeritus” by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in a ceremony marking his retirement after 16 years as director of Preparatory and Extension Divisions. During his tenure, McCarthy represented the Conservatory on the Education Committee of the San Francisco Symphony and brought the Preparatory Division to a place of international prominence.
John McCarthy continues to teach at the Conservatory, has an active private studio, has served on the juries of several international and regional piano competitions, and has reviewed materials submitted for publication to Oxford University Press. He has taught at Lone Mountain College, at the Paciﬁc Music Festival at Stanford University, and on the faculty of the Young Musician’s Program at the University of California, Berkeley. McCarthy returns each summer to teach at the International Institute for Young Musicians at the University of Kansas.