From jazz to classical, a tuba student takes his music to the next level

‘Pretty unserious person’ Matt Healy makes his instruments—and his compositions—sing.

triptych of Mat Healy performing with tuba and trombone

“It’s a funny instrument,” says tuba player Matt Healy. “I think people have this idea that it’s a pretty goofy thing, which it is, and I love that, because I’m a pretty unserious person.

“And I liked the virtuosic potential of tuba playing.” For instance, he says, the tuba’s response is so slow that “sometimes players have to anticipate what a conductor will do and start a note a little early.”

A 2023 School of Music (SoM) grad, Healy grew up playing trombone as well as tuba. He played tuba in two orchestras of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies: Philharmonic and Concert Orchestra.

Watch and listen to a sample of Matt playing a few phrases from Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries.

“Around my junior year of high school I knew I wanted to be a music major of some kind,” he recalls. “I realized there was nothing else going on that I was as excited about as being up on stage playing music for people. I learned at the U that I won’t ever be able to commit myself to just the tuba because I love jazz too much, I love trombone too much.”

Phil Hey, affiliate faculty member, School of Music

Underpinnings of art

As a liberal arts student, Healy has studied oceanography, data studies, human ecology, and the short story. For him the point was not to learn the specific facts but “to learn how to learn and to manage yourself effectively, especially with music being such a creative venture.

“It’s really about learning how to divide tasks, and not look at things on the micro level,” he muses.

Also, he says, artists who want to succeed must be able to motivate themselves to work just as diligently on the occasional piece that doesn’t initially interest them as on those works that excite them right away.

Dean Sorenson, director, Jazz Studies

“It’s the same as learning how to be interested in a short story … that totally goes hand in hand with being an artist,” he says. “It’s to understand what the quality of a short story is, even if it’s not your objective in doing it. With the opportunities at the U, I’ve been able to make myself a more rounded musician.”

Matt Healy conducting an orchestra
Matt Healy playing trombone

Last year, for a U of M jazz ensemble concert, Healy composed a piece for big band that he and other students performed with the Peterson family (from Richfield; Minnesota’s “first family of music”).

“I worked on it with Dean Sorenson, director of jazz studies at the U,” he says. “I was super happy with how it turned out. I’ve sold it to some high schools around town. It’s been performed by an ensemble I’m not in, and that’s just blown my mind.”

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