A proud native of Texas, Tim Buzbee didn’t realize he wanted to play the tuba professionally until he was almost twenty-one. After attending Texas A&M University in Commerce he was appointed Principal Tuba of the Acapulco Philharmonic. Shortly after, he won a spot in the Chicago Civic Orchestra where he studied with the members of the Chicago Symphony. While in Chicago he performed on many occasions with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

In February 2001, Buzbee won the Principal Tuba position with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. After four years in Singapore he won the same position with the Gävle Symphony where he performed for one season until winning his current position of Principal Tuba with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. He has toured throughout the United States, Europe, Mexico, Japan, and most of Asia giving master-classes and performing recitals. Recently, Tim Buzbee won the principal tuba position to Melbourne Symphony.

(This interview was conducted in November 2010)

Tell us about the equipment you are currently playing on.

I am currently playing on several different FCC Tubas including the first prototype Nircshl York, and a handmade 2265 Meinl Weston. My new F Tuba is a 2250 Meinl Weston. I use other tubas from time to time in the orchestra depending on the repertoire.

How did you first picked up the tuba?

I wanted to play the drums when I was in 6th grade because drummers always get the girls. However, after scoring perfect on a general music test, my teacher would not let me! She made me play Tuba which of course I was very disappointed with at first until I realized that girls like tubas too!

You have performed all over the world with countless orchestras. Are there any particularly good memories or experiences that you would like to share with us?

Every time I performed with the Chicago Symphony, it was a special experience, especially the first time when I was so nervous! There were also other memorable concerts such as my last concert with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) doing Mahler 8, and playing Shostakovich 7 with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra (ISO).

As a former tubist with the SSO, where do you think Singapore stands on the global orchestral scene?

Playing 4 years in the SSO was great! I learned a lot while playing there. The SSO creates a special sound because there are so many musicians of different nationalities and schools combined in one orchestra. Many orchestra have a certain way of playing every piece, a way which they have played the piece for many years, but it was not like this in the SSO when I was there.

What’s on your music stand right now?

Well I just arrived home after over a month on the road in the States, Spain, Germany, and Finland so I will not look at anything for a few days! After  a break, I will start work on a new piece just finished for me by Ferrer Ferran for Solo Tuba and band.

What are some of the solo repertoire that you would recommend for tuba players?

I think that young tubists should try to get their hands on any solos they can. Play the standards but don’t be afraid to try new solos for Tuba or other instruments. James Meador is writing a lot of new exciting music for tuba along with other composers like Barbara York and James Grant to name a few. But don’t forget the basics!

The tuba has always been known as a ompha-ompha instrument. What are your views on that?

I think that tuba players are strongly to blame for this stereotype. We as tuba players don’t like this stereotype but at the same time we don’t do enough to break the stereotype wall! I always make my students stand up and bow after they play even after just performing in a masterclass or when people are listening. We must start acting like real musicians first before people will start treating us like musicians. I could say more but will stop there.

As a marathon runner, what do you feel about musicians and keeping fit?

I feel that staying fit is a very important aspect of playing a brass instrument. I know that I am more efficient now that I am in better shape. I always try to have a little bit of exercise mixed with my practice.

Do you enforce any of your exercise philosophies on your students?

Yes! I recommend to my students to try to stay or get into shape. I have a student now that has lost a lot of weight since he has been studying with me, and he feels better, looks better, and plays better! When I lead a warm up with students, I normally have them doing push ups, set ups, and stretches.

With two solo cds under your belt, do you have any exciting new projects in the pipeline?

Oh Yeah! I have many exciting things around the corner. I will be premiering a new solo with band by Ferran with the Pershing Army Band in D.C. in Jan 2011, releasing a few new CDs after Christmas and performing a new concerto with orchestra that will be finished next year with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. I am currently working on a big project which I can’t say too much about it at this moment, but it may be the first of it’s kind!


Written By Editor

A contributing editor at TBP.