15 Of The Greatest And Most Famous Tuba Players

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

The sound of a tuba is unmistakable. It’s the deep, powerful, and sometimes comical roar that can be heard throughout marching bands and orchestras across the world. While most people may only know one or two players, there are many more out there who deserve recognition for their contributions to this amazing instrument.

This blog post will introduce you to 15 famous tuba players from all around the world and explore some of the contributions they’ve made to this great instrument.

1. Roger Bobo

Los Angeles native Roger Bobo is a tuba soloist, conductor, and teacher who has toured the world playing, teaching, and leading orchestras.

He graduated from Eastman School of Music and spent 25 years playing for the Los Angeles Philharmonic during which he gave a solo performance on the tuba at the famed Carnegie Recital Hall, a first in the history of the establishment.

Bobo has conducted orchestras around the U.S., Europe, and Asia, and since retiring as a performer, has switched career tracks to teaching and conducting.

He has also been a tuba teacher at various European conservatories and ultimately in Japan.

He now lives in Mexico and conducts online masterclasses and seminars.

2. Carol Jantsch

Carol Jantsch is an American tuba soloist and one of the only accomplished female tuba players to date, breaking with the male-dominated norms relegated to the tuba since its introduction into the brass family in the early 19th century.

Jantsch began playing music at age 6, starting with the piano, followed by the euphonium at age 9, and finally choosing the tuba as her exclusive instrument in middle school.

She studied tuba intensively at the Interlochen Arts Academy and began competing internationally at tuba competitions throughout high school and college.

In 2006 she became the youngest and first woman tuba player to achieve the position of first chair in the Philadelphia Orchestra.

She continues to play with the Philadelphia Orchestra and is also a professor at the Yale School of Music.

3. Alan Baer

Alan Baer is an American tuba player and has been the first chair for the prestigious New York Philharmonic Orchestra since 2004.

He has also played in a principal role in the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, not to mention as a special guest tubist with the Cleveland Orchestra, the New Orleans Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. 

Apart from being a successful tuba performer, he has been an adjunct professor and brass ensemble leader at California State University, the University of Milwaukee, and is currently a faculty member at Julliard, the Manhattan School of Music, and Rutgers.

Baer also does design consulting with the instrument manufacturing company Meinl-Weston.

4. Arnold Jacobs

 Philadelphia native Arnold Jacobs is a tubist and teacher who was a longtime tuba player with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra after performing with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in the ‘30s and ‘40s.

He is praised as one of the most important brass teachers of all time, having created his own playing philosophy and breathing techniques for brass instruments.

He taught brass and tuba at Northwestern University and his personal studio for 20 years and was given honorary Doctorates in music from DePaul University and VanderCook College of Music.

He received a lifetime achievement award from the Chicago Federation of Musicians and the Legends of Teaching award from Northwestern University.

He was even awarded his own day by Chicago’s mayor in 1995, who declared June 25th as Arnold Jacobs Day in Chicago.

5. Velvet Brown 

Velvet Brown is an American tubist and educator who has also broken gender norms by being one of the few accomplished women tubists in history.

She is a soloist, chamber ensemble performer, recording artist, conductor, and orchestra player, playing for countless national and international orchestras, jazz ensembles, brass bands, and tuba quartets throughout her career.

She has released three solo CDs and currently plays with four different groups on top of holding various educational and directorial positions in the academic and international music community.

Brown has been a professor of tuba and euphonium at Pennsylvania State University since 2003, is a member of the International Tuba Euphonium Association board of directors, and is a founder of the International Women’s Brass Conference.

6. Sam Pilafian

Born James Samuel Pilafian in Miami, FL, Sam Pilafian was a tubist with an eclectic career, playing classical, jazz, rock and roll, and pop music with some of each genre’s all-time greats.

He performed in the Broadway orchestras for the musicals Doctor Jazz and Much Ado About Nothing.

He has played in jazz ensembles like the Duke Ellington Orchestra and the duo Travelin Light.

He also played film scores and in a recording for one of the famed rock band Pink Floyd’s albums.

He has recorded seven albums and taught at Arizona State University and North Dakota State University.

The New York Times honored him with praise and respect in a long and thorough biographical obituary.

7. Øystein Baadsvik

Oystein Baadsvik is a Norwegian tuba player, chamber musician, and soloist that began studying the tuba at 15, and quickly advanced to public performance by the age of 18.

He has since gone on to have a successful career performing in orchestras worldwide such as Singapore Philharmonic, Taipei National Symphony Orchestra, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

Not only is he a performer, but he also teaches masterclasses at world-renowned music conservatories like Julliard, gives many online seminars and private lessons, and has a successful YouTube channel with 21,000 subscribers and millions of views.

8. Herbie Flowers

Herbie Flowers by Lorraine Bowen (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Born Brian Keith Flowers in Isleworth, England, Herbie Flowers is a British tubist, electric bassist, and double bassist who is better known for his bass stylings.

However, the tuba was his first instrument, and he played as a tubist in the Royal Air Force band for nine years before branching off to play as a bassist in jazz bands.

He then found his band Blue Mink and would later found another band, Sky.

He has played with a slew of the most famous 60s and 70s rock and jazz artists, including David Bowie, Ringo Star, George Harrison, Elton John, and Roger Daltrey, to name a few.

He is most famous for creating the bassline for Lou Reed’s most famous song: A Walk on the Wild Side.

9. Patrick Sheridan 

Patrick Sheridan is an American tubist and educator who has performed over 3,000 concerts in his 50-year career as a musician.

He has played for ensembles and orchestras worldwide and performed in high-profile events and venues such as The Today Show, NPR’s All Things Considered, NBA halftime shows, the White House, and the Hollywood Bowl.

He is also a renowned tuba educator, having served on the faculty of various universities in the U.S. and abroad along with winning an Emmy for his instructional video The Breathing Gym that teaches breathing techniques to brass players.

He is also a composer and arranger, his musical arrangements and compositions are used consistently in jazz bands, orchestras, marching bands, and recorded CDs. 

10. John Fletcher

John Fletcher was England’s most accomplished tubist, having been a member of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra for much of his career.

He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Tuba-Euphonium Association, and famed composer Leonard Salzedo honored Fletcher posthumously by dedicating a tuba and piano sonata to him. 

11. Warren Deck

Warren Deck is a distinguished tubist and educator, having played as principal chair in the New York Philharmonic and the Houston Symphony.

Deck has also taught at Rice University, Julliard, and currently, at the University of Denver.

Deck has recorded with The Canadian Brass and for well-known labels, Sony Classical, Phillips, and EMI Angel records.

12. Rex Martin

Rex Martin is an American tubist and professor who studied under Arnold Jacobs and has contributed to more than 70 symphony orchestra recordings.

He is currently a professor of Tuba at Bern University of Arts in Switzerland, before which he taught at various prestigious Midwest universities.

He has performed in 13 different orchestras worldwide and been a longtime member of five orchestras and ensembles, most notably the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chicago Brass Ensemble.

13. Gene Pokorny

Gene Pokorny is an American tuba player who has an eclectic career as a chamber musician, a recording artist, an author, and a teacher.

He began playing with the Chicago Symphony in 1988 and has since played with the Israel Philharmonic, the Utah Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.

He has also recorded three albums as a soloist and has collaborated on instrumental soundtracks for Hollywood films such as Jurassic Park, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and The Fugitive.

He gives seminars, masterclasses, and workshops at universities around the U.S. and contributes to Tuba textbooks and academic journals. 

14. Charles Daellenbach

Charles Daellenbach is a Canadian American tubist and one of the hardest working and most prolific tubists in history.

He is one of the founding members of the world-famous horn group, Canadian Brass, formed in 1970 and continues to perform today.

A veritable B.B. King of the tuba, Daellenbach has performed more than 7,000 shows in the 51 years with Canadian Brass and has produced hundreds of repertoire works and over 73 DVDs and CDs of his performances and studio recordings.

He owns his own recording company, Opening Day Entertainment, whose CDs and DVDs have earned countless Juno awards, Grammy nominations, and German Echo Awards, not to mention a formal recognition and honoring as a member of the Order of Canada for his contribution to the popularization of classical music through his work with Canadian Brass.

15. James Gourlay

James Gourlay is a Scottish tubist, conductor, and educator who began playing as a child and attended the Royal College of Music before launching a successful career in famed orchestras in Europe and America.

He was principal chair in the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, a former member of the Phillip Jones Brass Ensemble, and a soloist and conductor for the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the River City Brass Band.

Gourlay has taught at Julliard, Eastman School of Music, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, and other renowned music conservatories.

He is currently the music director at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

Summing up our List of Famous Tubists

We hope you enjoyed our list of famous tubists and that it has given you a new appreciation for the instrument.

We’ll be updating this article with some more tuba players soon so let us know which great musicians we’ve missed and we’ll add them in.

Photo of author

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.