Toby Hughes, double bassist

Who or what inspired you to take up the double bass, and pursue a career in music?

My parents took me to an open day at our local music service where they were offering free double bass and bassoon lessons. After a demonstration of Saint-Saens’s ‘The Elephant’, I knew that the double bass was the one for me, but mainly because it was the biggest!

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Corin Long (former principal of the RPO) was an amazing teacher and role model. He took me on as a private student at the age of 12 and always told me that I could play anything, in fact, he actively encouraged me to learn new and challenging pieces. Also Božo Paradžik – perhaps the world’s leading solo double bassist – for giving me a world-class technique.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

My greatest challenge is ongoing: showing everyone that the double bass can be a soloistic instrument and can hold its own in the musical world.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

My first performance at Wigmore Hall was an unforgettable experience. I received such a positive response from the audience for a programme of music written specifically for the double bass – they’d probably never heard any of it before! It made me even more motivated to continue bringing this amazing repertoire to a larger audience.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

Romantic works, particularly Reinhold Glière’s Four Pieces for Double Bass and Adolf Mišek’s Sonata No. 2. These were the two pieces that really inspired me and pushed my musical and technical capabilities.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

Wigmore Hall. It has such a unique atmosphere for both performer and audience, and the acoustic is exceptional. I look forward to performing there again.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Well, as a double bassist (not that we’re not musicians!), it will be when a double bass recital becomes the norm, not a rarity.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Make the most of all the opportunities that come your way, even if they seem daunting.

Find less frequently-played works for your recitals, it will make them more memorable.

What is your most treasured possession?

I haven’t actually received it yet, but when I do… it’ll be my brand new double bass, which is currently being built by Master Bass Maker, Derek High.

Toby Hughes has been just announced as a 2018 City Music Foundation Artist.

CMF’s mission is to turn exceptional musical talent into professional success by equipping outstanding musicians with the tools, skills, experience, and networks they need to build and sustain rewarding and profitable careers.

For more information about Toby go to

(photo credit: Benjamin Ealovega)