Donor Profile: Jennifer Heglin
Jennifer Heglin: A Life Dedicated to the Arts
Jennifer Heglin is one of the Lamont School of Music’s most fervent supporters, and has proudly volunteered her time and resources to the school for decades. Her story, which begins in England and spans continents and decades, demonstrates an enduring passion for exploration and for the arts.
Jennifer recalls, “All I ever wanted to do was travel, from the age of 16, when I went to France for the first time. I never had a career as such, just worked various jobs in order to fund my travels!” (Travels which continue into her 80s, with Easter Island being the most recent dream checked off of her bucket list!) At age 21, she made the leap across the Atlantic, landing in Montreal as a bilingual French-English secretary. However, the Quebecois dialect made job-hunting difficult so she went to Niagara Falls and spent the summer as a waitress before relocating to Toronto. There, she first started to cultivate an interest in classical music through the Toronto Symphony’s free Sunday performances. She remembers that the Canadian Opera Company was just getting started at that time: “They were giving performances in the Maple Leafs’ hockey stadium!”
One cold, dreary winter and one hot, humid summer led Jennifer to head west to Vancouver, where she ended up spending nearly 20 years. The arts scene there was really starting to take off when she arrived, with symphony, theatre, and opera companies opening up. Jennifer remembers seeing Joan Sutherland perform many times at the Vancouver Opera. But it was the Metropolitan Opera Radio Broadcasts that really turned her into an opera fan, “and once Luciano Pavarotti arrived, an opera nut!”
Jennifer met her husband, Cliff, while working for a mining company which attracted the attention of an oil and gas company in Denver, where Cliff was vice president. He and his colleague also ran the office in Calgary, and it was during layovers in Vancouver that his relationship with Jennifer flourished.
They married in 1978 and when Jennifer moved to Denver she was able to turn her attentions entirely to volunteer work for causes that are close to her heart. While on an opera tour to Chicago, she heard about the Denver Lyric Opera Guild and the Central City Opera Guild. “Being new to volunteer work, my first reaction was, “What’s a guild?” she recalls, laughing. She and Cliff attended their first Colorado Symphony (then known as the Denver Symphony) concert soon after Boettcher Concert Hall opened, and she has been a supporter ever since. In fact, she became president of the Symphony Guild in 1986.
Around that time, she heard from her symphony friends about MAUD—the Music Associates of the University of Denver. This group was made up of supporters of the Lamont School of Music, which had merged with DU in 1941. When Jennifer joined MAUD, Lamont was located in less-than-ideal facilities at the corner of University & Evans.
Jennifer soon crossed paths with Joe Docksey, who became Director of the school in 1988. By that time, Lamont was housed in the old Houston Fine Arts Center on the corner of Montview and Quebec—eight miles from the DU campus. This was actually an improvement from their previous on-campus location, where students practiced in storage units, held concerts in Sturm Hall classrooms, and rehearsed in Buchtel Chapel. The support group Lamont Music Associates was formed, and it wasn’t long before Joe started the committee to fundraise to create a permanent on-campus home for Lamont.
Jennifer was deeply involved with this years-long effort to build the Newman Center for the Performing Arts. She remembers that Joe was always coming up with creative fundraising ideas, like giving hard hat tours of the construction site. When one of the virtual acoustic practice rooms was ready, he demonstrated how it worked by playing his trumpet for a group of fascinated donors.
The opening of the Newman Center in September 2002 was one of the most significant moments in Lamont’s history. Jennifer remembers that it was a “typical gorgeous fall Denver day.” They closed off Iliff Avenue for the occasion, and the whole school—students, faculty, and staff—marched down the street, led by the Pipes and Drums ensemble. She says, “It was symbolic, because we had been eight miles away previously, and we were finally coming home to DU. It made all the difference in morale, to physically be on campus.”
Jennifer continues to be a supporter of multiple arts organizations in town, but Lamont is closest to her heart. She considers the students, faculty, and alumni to be like family, as all of her blood relatives live in Britain. She has kept in touch with quite a few alumni and has traveled to see some of them perform: George Arvidson (BM ’14) in EVITA in London, Guillermo Ramasasa (BM ’18) with the Southbank Sinfonia after graduating from the Royal Academy of Music; Sarah Cambidge (MM ’11) making her debut with the Metropolitan Opera; as well as many performances of alumni in the Denver area.
Lamont has seen a number of students from Ecuador come through the program in recent years, whom Jennifer refers to as “my Quito gang” and attends their performances whenever possible. When she traveled to Quito and Galapagos, one of the gang, Daniela Guzmán-Égüez (AD ’22) connected her to her family and they took her out and about.
Jennifer is also a fervent attendee of Lamont’s public performances, attending dozens of them every year and always inviting friends to join her. Since 2014, she has sold over 600 tickets to the opera productions!
Looking ahead to the future, Jennifer’s greatest hope is for as many people as possible to appreciate how special and important Lamont is to the community. She would love to see the school’s enrollment increase, so that ensembles can be robustly populated, and for the school to be able to mount a second full opera or musical production.
“We have the most incredible faculty, and I wish the whole of Denver knew about it! I hope we can get more people to come to our events, and I hope that the broader DU community also recognizes how important Lamont is.”
With Jennifer’s incredible support, Lamont is well on the way to bringing that vision to life.