TubaMatthew Garbutt


Born in Los Angeles, Principal Tuba Matthew Garbutt began his musical studies on the tuba at age ten and conducting at age 16. He attended the Idyllwild School of Music and Arts, the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California State University-Northridge and the California Institute of the Arts. He also attended the Academy for Music and Dramatic Arts in Vienna and completed studies at Indiana University. His principal tuba teachers included Tommy Johnson (a highly sought-after teaching and studio artist in LA), Roger Bobo (Principal Tuba in the Los Angeles Philharmonic), Leopold Kolar (Vienna Philharmonic) and the legendary Harvey Phillips (Indiana University).

In the years before he came to San Diego, Mr. Garbutt performed with the San Fernando Valley Symphony, the Burbank Symphony and (as a substitute on a few occasions) the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In 1973, Matthew Garbutt became the Principal Tuba for the Israel Philharmonic (under the direction of another legend, Zubin Mehta) at the age of 21. Mr. Garbutt’s audition for Maestro Mehta took place on the stage of Carnegie Hall. Even though Matthew forgot his sheet music that day (!), he was able to perform all of the requested excerpts perfectly from memory, winning the position. 

Mr. Garbutt maintained his Israel Philharmonic position for three years, but a strong desire for conducting opportunities eventually brought him back to southern California. Mr. Garbutt joined the San Diego Opera orchestra in 1976, becoming Principal Tuba of the Opera shortly thereafter. In 1977, he auditioned for and won the Principal Tuba position with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Garbutt was the SDSO’s Principal Summer Pops conductor for over 30 years, and he also frequently conducted City Lights and Family Festival concerts. 

Matthew Garbutt performs on a 1927 Conn Double B-flat tuba (purchased in mint condition in 2000 from the son of the original owner) and a Mirafone Double C tuba (purchased way back in 1986). 


Q: How did you choose your instrument? 

A: At the age of five, my parents took me to a 1956 taping of a popular show on LA’s KTLA called Polka Parade. The studio tuba player allowed me to touch his horn and play some notes, which came out rather loud for such a little boy! Needless to say, I was permanently hooked on the tuba. 

Q: What would you say is your favorite movie? 

A: For the music and the songs and the singing, you can't beat The Music Man

Q: What are your favorite travel destinations? 

A: Lately, our favorite has been good old Disneyland! 

Q: What is your favorite San Diego Symphony Orchestra memory? 

A: Well, this is more properly a conducting rather than performing memory, but in the Summer of 1983, at the grand finale “1812 Overture” concert, the stage crew managed to put my podium on a scissor-lift without my knowing. (This was at Hospitality Point, our first summer of concerts there.) Sure enough, near the end of the piece when all the horns and strings are really blowing and going, I start to RISE above the orchestra, ending 15 feet up in the air! I couldn’t believe it, and the audience just went nuts. Fantastic!