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Old Boy Offers Advice to Young Musicians

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Old Boy Rick Pilkington (Class of 1974) returned to Bolton School to share his passion for music with current pupils in Years 10 to 13 from both Divisions. He decided at the age of 50 to pursue his first love, music, and since then has enjoyed success with musical partner Chrissy Mostyn as The Blackheart Orchestra. They have released four albums, toured the UK, Europe and Australia, and last year played to 13,000 people in seven dates with Hawkwind, including two nights at The London Palladium.

He began the lunchtime talk with his very first taste of music. His mother bought him a Spanish guitar when he joined Bolton School at the age of 11, but he hated formal lessons! It was only when he bought Cream’s album ‘Disraeli Gears’ that he fell in love with music: he put away the Spanish guitar, bought an electric guitar and taught himself to play. At school, he and his friends formed the “infamous” band Black Cat Bone and he recalled some of his musical experiences as a Bolton School pupil.

Rick proudly mentioned four other members of his form who found success in music: Tony Wadsworth who has had a lifelong career in the industry, radio broadcaster Mark Radcliffe, Radiohead’s manager Bryce Edge, and Buzzcocks drummer Mick Singleton.

He asked whether or not it is possible to teach music and discussed his idea of the “two different kinds of musician” and their distinct skills and abilities. However, most importantly he said, “Music is beautiful: whichever way you turn, don’t ever give up on music.” This was a theme throughout his recollections and anecdotes.

For those wishing to pursue a musical career, he offered some words of warning about the “wolves” of the music industry who are interested only in making money. However, he also encouraged his audience of young musicians to take their dreams seriously. He passed up an opportunity to join a band, which went on to be successful, because his mother wanted him to go to college. Although he enjoyed his resulting career in advertising, he said: “Deciding to make a living out of music was the best thing I’ve done in my life. Don’t wait until you’re 50!”

At the end of the talk there was time for questions. When asked how to make contact with people in the music industry, he was honest about the difficulty but gave some helpful tips as well. He also discussed his method of writing new material and said that the most important thing is to “find out what you are, be yourself and be brilliant at what you do.”

Some pupils stayed behind to chat to Rick about their musical aspirations and to ask individual questions.

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