Zaurbek Gugkaev was born in Vladikavkaz. In 2004 he graduated from the Vladikavkaz School of Arts, and in 2011 he graduated from the St Petersburg Conservatoire where he studied opera and symphony music conducting under Professor Leonid Korchmar.
Has worked with various St Petersburg orchestras including the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of St Petersburg and the orchestras of the Cappella and the Children's Philharmonic; he has also appeared with the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of the Republic of Belarus and other ensembles. As a conductor he has featured in concerts of the St Petersburg House of Music as part of the projects Young Performers of Russia and Music of the Stars. From 2010 to 2015 he was Principal Conductor of the Academic Symphony Orchestra of the Mineralnye Vody Philharmonic in the Caucasus (today the North-Caucusus State Safonov Philharmonic).
At the Mariinsky Theatre Gugkaev conducts operas from the classical European repertoire (Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro and Die Zauberflöte and Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia) and the Russian repertoire (Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin and Rimsky-Korsakov's The Golden Cockerel) in addition to symphony concerts. In July 2016 he conducted one of the one of the first performances of Mieczysław Weinberg opera The Idiot as well as the premiere of Leonid Klinichev's opera The Cossacks.