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John McCarthy

  • Piano
Continuing Education
  • Piano
John McCarthy headshot

Instruments Taught



John and Annamarie McCarthy Piano Duo


BM, San Francisco Conservatory of Music


What is your hometown?

Merrick, New York

Who were your major teachers?

Katja Andy, Bernhard Abramowitsch and Martin Canin

What is a favorite quote that you repeatedly tell students?

"Play to express, not to impress"

What question do you wish students would ask sooner rather than later?

"What do you think makes this piece so beautiful?"

What is your daily practice routine?

Each morning begins with twenty five minutes of sight reading, generally Schubert. This is followed with my newest project, generally something recently composed. After a break, I work on technical exercises separate from my repertoire, followed by pieces I am polishing and memorizing. There is never enough time.

If you could play only three composers for the rest of your life, who would they be?

Schubert, Bach and Beethoven

From a music history perspective, what year and city are most important to you, and why?

Bach was appointed cantor of Saint Thomas Church in Leipzig in 1722.

What is your unrealized project?

Playing all the works of Schubert.

Please list your most important collaborations.

Annamarie and John McCarthy Piano Duo

Please list your top awards and distinctions.

Distinguished Teacher Awards from Department of Education and the White House Committee on Presidential Scholars in the Arts. (2006, 2013)


Director Emeritus, Preparatory and Adult Extension Divisions

John McCarthy has performed with the San Francisco Symphony in Davies Symphony Hall and at the Ojai Music Festival with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. He and his wife Annamarie have appeared extensively as a piano duo with performances at Stanford University, the Bracebridge Concerts at Yosemite Park, and at CAMI (Columbia Artists Management Hall) in New York City. Contact with young musicians is close to his heart. In addition to his many decades of teaching at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, McCarthy served as director of the Preparatory and Extension Divisions for sixteen years. Upon his retirement from administration in 2011, he was bestowed the title "Director Emeritus". An award winning teacher of long experience, John McCarthy is recognized as one of today's leading pedagogues. In 2006, he was one of three teachers of classical music to receive a Distinguished Teacher Award from the Department of Education and the White House Committee on Presidential Scholars in the Arts at a special ceremony in Washington DC. This honor was received by 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 San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philharmonia Baroque, and Royal Scottish National Symphony. They have received numerous awards, including a Davidson Fellowship, and three students have been named Presidential Scholars in the Arts. McCarthy studied with Katya Andy, Bernhard Abramowitsch, Martin Canin, Robert Helps, Thomas La Ratta, and Milton and Peggy Salkind.

Accepting advanced students.