5 Hard Truths About Life I Learned At Music School

Hugh Richardson
6 min readMay 11, 2021

The most important things the classroom didn’t teach.

Photo by Kael Bloom on Unsplash

I moved to London, UK in 2007 to attend music school. I came from a small market town where there wasn’t a music scene and there was such a small chance of working as a musician there that I didn’t even know that being a professional musician was a job.

However, the best lessons I learned there weren’t in the classroom. They came from life itself. From conversations with others, from successes and failures, and from battling to build a career in music.

These lessons weren’t at all pretty. They still make for uncomfortable reading now but they’ve served me well and it’s my hope that they do the same for you.

Even if they do make you feel uncomfortable at first.

In reverse order of importance, here goes.

5. You’re Not Smart Enough And You Don’t Work Hard Enough

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

Most of my fellow students had grown up with a similar identity to mine. They were the musical kid in their school or community and they were held in high regard for it. It made them special.

But when we got to London, a city which had been attracting musically gifted people for generations, we realised not only that we were no longer big fish, we weren’t even in the pond so to speak.

It didn’t matter how good we were there were musicians on the London circuit who were better, older, more experienced, and smarter. But they didn’t brag about it, they let their work ethic speak for itself.

On first encountering this I made the mistake of adopting the “I’m enough as I am and I just have to learn to accept my flaws” ideology. This is fine when talking about your personal worth but that wasn’t relevant here. This was all professional.

It took me several years to learn this but at times when I was falling behind professionally then often the problem really was me. Not the universe, not fate, not luck. I wasn’t smart enough, I didn’t work hard enough and (most worryingly) I didn’t…

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Hugh Richardson

This blog is about my musical experiences working as a bass player, composer, arranger and teacher in London and what I feel they have taught me so far. Enjoy!