Skip to main content
Art Views

Two Great Reno Events

Published May 12, 2023

Two Great Reno Events

by Chuck Reider

The Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO) had the wonderful opportunity to perform at two great events, the first at the Reno Jazz Festival (RJF) on April 29 and the second a benefit concert for Northern Nevada HOPES on May 7. Let’s start with the jazz festival.

Hans Halt: Jazz instructor at UNR and RJO bassist

I had a chance to speak with Hans Halt, a jazz instructor at UNR who was an integral part organizing the event and, by the way, is the RJO bassist. This is the 61st year of the RJF and the first all-live event since the COVID shutdown. Last year was mostly virtual and the prior year it was canceled. This year brought changes. It was the first year that the festival was non-competitive. All previous years there were judges scoring each school’s big band performance with the top scoring bands performing Saturday evening. Instead of the 20-minute performance limit the bands could play longer, though it would cut into the feedback time from the clinicians. The Friday and Saturday concerts were moved from Lawlor Events Center to the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts as it is more ‘music friendly.’ However, school registrations had to be limited to 112 schools so all the students could attend these concerts. The University Jazz Lab 1 and the Nevada Wind Ensemble opened the Friday concert featuring the compositions of Omar Thomas. The ensembles were originally to perform the compositions this winter, but the concert was canceled (you guessed it) because of snow.  Friday’s headliner was trumpeter Marquis Hill who also performed the music of Omar Thomas. Saturday, the RJO performed our annual noontime concert (23 years and counting) in Nightingale Hall this time featuring new compositions that will be released this summer as a part of our album “Next-New Directions.”  Saturday evening back at the Pioneer was the showcase concert featuring selected outstanding school ensembles. Two high school ensembles and a jazz choir were featured and the Berklee institute of jazz and gender justice ensemble opened the concert.  All the concerts were sold out!

Susan Mazer

All the above concerts were inspiring but the true magic were all the student ensembles and clinician workshops. Friday and Saturday there were 17 workshops covering a full range of jazz topics from improvisation topics to meditation in performance. Twenty clinicians worked with the school ensembles and led the workshops. Another highlight was the Thursday student jam session at the Laughing Planet. Sixty students showed up to jam and it was a great opportunity for current UNR jazz students to meet the “jammers” and encourage them to come to UNR to study jazz.

The RJF is always recruiting sponsors and looking for volunteers to help out with all the logistics. Check the Reno Jazz Festival website next fall to learn more about how you can help to inspire students to create the magic of jazz.

Susan Mazer and Dallas Smith sponsored our HOPES concert and I asked Mazer to write about the event.  Here is what she had to say:

On Sunday, May 7 the Reno Jazz Orchestra, hosted by me and my husband, Dallas Smith, performed a benefit concert for Hope Springs and Northern Nevada HOPES, with guest conductor Gary Mayne. This was a benefit of spirit rather than dollars. This event spoke to the power of music and the joy of music makers to play-forward the mission of Reno caring for its own.

How music elevates the spirit and enriches our daily lives could not have been more obvious than this performance of all local musicians and composers playing for a most appreciative audience generated by those both committed to and served by Northern Nevada HOPES. 

HOPES resident Ricky Nahorniak speaking to the audience

Hope Springs, now in its second year, is the only tiny-home transitional housing community in the country sponsored and run by a community health center. Those experiencing homelessness may apply to and be accepted into a program that does so much more than provide “room and board.” Hope Springs provides health services, individual housing, life-skills training, therapy services, classes that build and broaden skills in order that at the end of six months, an individual will have a job, housing, and the capacity to sustain a healthy way of life.

49% of Americans – 176 million people – are one paycheck away from being homeless.  Anything, any unexpected event, a personal health crisis, loss of employment, a car accident, or any similar event that prevents us from working could lead any of us to this fate.   

Musicians living in Reno span several generations. There are those musicians who came here to work in the casinos during the 50s, 60s, and 70s had full-time orchestras that performed seven days a week. With the advent of technology and television, musicians were traded for other modes of entertainment, but not the music. Synthesizers and computer-driven music kept going with or without live performers. Thus, many musicians struggled financially or were compelled to take other jobs out of necessity. 

RJO performing at HOPES concert

On Sunday, the Reno Jazz Orchestra of nineteen players brought all of their years of training, their experience, their instruments, and their musicianship, to serve the needs of Northern Nevada HOPES which feeds all of us. Home is where the heart is, but wherever the music is, love becomes obvious.

The RJO is in its 27th year and now includes multiple generations who share their talent and knowledge in order for the big band tradition to continue.

The idea of “Playing it Forward” is about spreading the collective joy between musicians and the audience after which it is then spread among all of us. 

This year and next, the Reno Jazz Orchestra will have many guest conductors to replace its long-time music director and founder, Chuck Reider, as he passes on the baton. We are fortunate to live in a community that supports outstanding musical groups such as the Reno Jazz Orchestra, along with Northern Nevada HOPES, which serves a population in need with housing, healthcare, and career counseling. Both of these organizations thrive because of the donations from within the community. We are proud to support the work they do to make Reno a better community. Please consider becoming a financial supporter of these organizations.

More from Chuck Reider

The Reno Jazz Orchestra – Presents! by Chuck Reider — April 7, 2023

Welcome Tim Young, the Reno Jazz Orchestra’s new Executive Director by Chuck Reider — March 3, 2023

Jazz in the Schools 2023: Fostering a Love of Jazz by Chuck Reider — January 27, 2023

Creative Direction in Jazz by Chuck Reider — October 14, 2022

Meet Reno Jazz Orchestra co-founder Tony Savage  by Chuck Reider — September 16, 2022

What is jazz orchestra? by Chuck Reider — August 19, 2022

Hotter Than July by Chuck Reider — July 25, 2022

Meet John Bennum, the Reno Jazz Orchestra's new Executive Director by Chuck Reider — June 24, 2022

Making Music in the New Millennium by Chuck Reider — April 29, 2022

Beating the Blues: Reno Jazz Festival is Back by Chuck Reider — April 1, 2022



This PBS Reno series delves into the local arts scene, looking at the lasting impact the arts have in our communities and beyond.

Chuck Reider is the Board President of the Reno Jazz Orchestra

Additional ART VIEWS Contributors