About Heartland Symphony Orchestra

Heartland Symphony Orchestra is a 50-piece volunteer, nonprofit, community orchestra located in and serving the central Minnesota area of Brainerd, Little Falls, and the surrounding rural communities. Musicians, from amateurs to professionals, come together once a week from all over the region to rehearse and perform three full-length orchestral music concerts each season in both Little Falls and Brainerd.

Special guest artists and conductors, local soloists and ensembles, area youth concerto winners, and charming repertoire commentary all help to make each concert unique and entertaining. The HSO also contributes its service to communities through music education programs, special events, and ticket give-aways. For more information, to receive a free HSO season brochure of upcoming concerts, to order your tickets, or to get involved either as a player or HSO sponsor, please email HeartlandSymphony@gmail.com or call the HSO at 1-800-826-1997.

Music Director

ryan webber

Ryan Webber maintains an active schedule as a conductor in northern Minnesota. Since 2017, he has served as the music director and pit orchestra conductor of Northern Light Opera Company. In addition to pit orchestra work, he has led a successful career working with bands and orchestras around the country. He conducts the Bemidji Area Community Band, where he leads innovative and diverse programs. Previously, he was the Assistant Conductor for the Lawrence Youth Symphony, which doubled in size during his tenure. Other groups he has worked with include the Symphonette Orchestra of the Youth Orchestras of Kansas City, La Primavera Youth Orchestra, and Community Youth Orchestra of Southern California.

Beyond his time on the podium, Mr. Webber is also known as a trombonist and educator. He has been a part of the Bemidji State University faculty since 2017, where he teaches applied low brass, co-directs the trombone choir, and is interim director of the BSU Pep Band. He is a rehearsal conductor for the BSU Symphonic Band and served as assistant music director for BSU’s production of Pirates of Penzance in 2018. Mr. Webber received a Bachelor of Music from the University of California, Irvine, studying trombone under David Stetson, and a Master of Music from the University of Kansas, studying trombone with Dr. Michael Davidson. Additional studies have been completed with Michael Hoffman, Jim Kraft, Dr. Michael Mapp, Graeme Mutchler, Dr. Paul Popiel, and Dr. Stephen Tucker.

As an orchestral musician, Mr. Webber has served as bass trombone in the Heartland Symphony since 2016. He has performed with the Bemidji, Southeast Kansas, Kansas City Civic, and Corona Symphony Orchestras. In addition to performances around the United States, Mr. Webber toured China with the MasterWorks Festival Orchestra. Some artists he has performed with include Natalie Cole, Bill Watrous, Jim Oatts, and Michael W. Smith.

Mr. Webber enjoys sharing his love of music with the audience in any way possible. He has written program notes for multiple ensembles, including liner notes for the University of Kansas Wind Ensemble’s CD Landscapes, distributed by Naxos. In addition to writing about music, he regularly gives pre-concert lectures. He has presented to Minnesota Orchestra patrons since 2018, including a recent panel discussion on censorship in music with Garrett McQueen, host of American Public Media’s “Music Through the Night.” Additionally, he has presented for the Indianapolis Symphony and MasterWorks Festival.

When not busy working on music, Mr. Webber enjoys reading, running by Lake Bemidji, and exploring the area with his wife Miriam and dog Bailey.

Concert Master

Leslie ZanderHeartland Symphony Orchestra’s Concertmaster is Leslie Zander. She has taught middle level orchestra in the Brainerd Public Schools since 2000. In addition to directing the 6th-8th grade Orchestras and an extracurricular chamber orchestra, she teaches 5th grade Classroom Music at Forestview Middle School. She also maintains a private studio of violin, viola, and cello students.

Besides her work with the Heartland Symphony Orchestra, Ms. Zander performs extensively throughout the Brainerd Lakes Area with the Trillium String Trio. She has also appeared with the Great River Strings Ensemble, the Legacy Chorale, and the Long Prairie Chamber Orchestra. Past summer engagements include the Sierra Summer Festival in Mammoth Lakes, CA, the Lake Chelan Bach Fest in Chelan, WA, and the Lakes Area Music Festival.

Ms. Zander began her violin lessons at the age of three at the Aber Suzuki Center at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, where her teacher was Patricia D’Ercole. She studied with Mark Bjork at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, earning a Bachelor of Music in Instrumental and Classroom Music. Ms. Zander also holds a Master of Arts in Differentiated Instruction from Concordia University – St. Paul.

Assistant Conductor

Chris FogderudChristopher Fogderud is currently in his 10th year as Director of Bands at Brainerd High School. His responsibilities include teaching the BHS Wind Symphony, Concert Band, Jazz Ensemble I, Jazz Ensemble II and AP Music Theory as well as the BHS Marching Band and Pep Bands. He received his B.A in Music Education from Gustavus Adolphus College and his Masters of Music with a concentration in conducting from The American Band College of Sam Houston State University. He has served as clinician and guest conductor for MSHSL music contests and MBDA honor bands. Mr. Fogderud holds memberships in NAfME, MMEA, MBDA, and Phi Beta Mu.

As a performer, Mr. Fogderud is the principal trumpet and assistant conductor of the Heartland Symphony Orchestra and has played frequently with the Lakes Area Music Festival. He has been the featured soloist with the Gustavus Symphony Orchestra, Gustavus Jazz Lab Band and the West River Winds Community Band. An active composer of liturgical jazz music, he has written, arranged and performed jazz music for church services in the lakes area. He can also be seen around the lakes area playing in various jazz combos including the Blue Moon Jazz Combo.

Apart from teaching and performing, Mr. Fogderud enjoys golfing, backpacking, marathoning, and hanging out with his two cats, Louis and Dizzy (Yes, they were named after the jazz musicians). He lives in Brainerd with his wonderful and talented wife, Sarah.

Orchestra Personnel

Click to view a listing of the Heartland Symphony Orchestra Personnel (pdf).

Board of Directors

Dean Fitch – President
James Wafler – Vice President
Helen O’Brien – Secretary
Tom Kotval – Treasurer
Betty Alderman
Lina Belar
Mary Clement
Deb Griffith
Susan Kavanaugh
Mona Steinke
Peter Vogel
Don Wennberg
Michelle Sakry-Winkelman


Navasha Klapotz – Operations Director
Fran Dosh – Orchestra Manager
Alicia Cebulla – Music Librarian

Please email HeartlandSymphony@gmail.com to contact any HSO board or staff member.