THE RJO's Meet The Musicians Series

Andy Heglund

by Jennifer Mannix, RJO Event Manager

Meet The Artists Series

Andy Heglund

Max Case

Meet Andy Heglund: Drummer, Professor and Family Man

Andy HeglundGrowing up in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota, Andy’s home was filled with music. His mother, a music educator and pianist, helped guide Andy on his musical journey. It was in Middle School that Andy was fortunate enough to have a great jazz band director - Bill Butler, a jazz trombonist who helped and encouraged his percussion skills.

University of Nevada Reno

While completing his Masters In Jazz Studies at the University of North Texas, Andy began seeking a full-time position in his field. Coincidentally, jazz professor at UNR, Larry Engstrom, was searching for a percussion teacher in Reno. Andy was recommended and began his long-term relationship with UNR and the Jazz Studies Program.

In 1998, UNR created a full time percussion position that was on the tenure track. A national search was conducted and Andy was the final candidate and accepted the position. Andy is proud to be a faculty member in the UNR Music Department and proud of the collaborative effort with the other UNR jazz faculty on the growth of jazz studies at UNR.

The Collective

Andy has been a member of UNR’s jazz faculty group named the Collective since its inception. Working with a regular group over a long period of time provides a familiarity, or group language, that can inspire new directions instantaneously.

Jazz In the Schools

The Jazz in the Schools program was created by the RJO, in collaboration with the UNR Music Department as a way to reach out to schools in our area (Washoe County), encourage jazz ensembles and develop jazz concepts in our school music programs. The program has produced a number of budding musicians that have gone on to attend UNR Jazz Studies and then become active performers; some of whom even play with The Reno Jazz Orchestra.

Being a Musician

Drummers are the engine propelling the band. The entire rhythm section has to work as a unit and the drums enable them to integrate together. The drummer also sets up the rhythmic figures to be played by the horns in a way that shapes the dynamics, intensity and clarity of the ensemble passages.

At its core, jazz is about improvisation. Watching a jazz performance, it is easy to see who is soloing, but that doesn’t mean the other members are not improvising. To many, the soloist is the only one improvising, but gifted jazz musicians are always improvising by responding to the soloist with accents, or a musical line, or a different chord. This “conversation” among all the musicians during a performance is the true beauty of jazz improvisation.


Andy joined The Reno Jazz Orchestra in 2008 and is a gift to our community. His dedication and drive to increase music appreciation in our schools and community are felt throughout our region.


Andy and his wife Nichole are busy with their two children (ages 3 and 9). The 3 year old is into dinosaurs, but the 9 year old is interested in piano. Nichole is the Educational Coordinator for the Reno Jazz Orchestra and runs the jazz mentor outreach program and coordinates the jazz workshop.

The arts are alive in the Heglund household and the RJO is lucky to be included in their musical journey!