Our Founder

Gregory W. Heltman
Founder of The Santa Fe Symphony and Executive Director, 1984–2018

Born in Los Alamos to career music educators Rollie and Harriet Heltman, Greg Heltman graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree cum laude from the University of the Pacific, where he studied with Dale Fjerstad. He then moved to the New York area where he studied with Mel Broiles of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

In 1981 he moved to Venezuela, where he taught trumpet for the famous “El Sistema” Orchestra de Juvenile program. Then, he and his wife Elaine moved to Israel for two years, where he was a member of the Israel Sinfonietta. In 1983 they moved back home to Santa Fe, and in 1984 he founded The Santa Fe Symphony and continued as a member of the Orchestra. From 1988–1999, while The Symphony was becoming established, he was also an Elementary School Music Educator for the Santa Fe Public Schools.

Greg grew up in Santa Fe and began playing the trumpet at age nine. As a 7th grader, he began trumpet study with Gene Kuntz, former trumpeter with the Metropolitan Opera and Santa Fe Opera orchestras. 

The Santa Fe Symphony performed its first concert September 2, 1984 at St. Francis Auditorium. This concert was an all-volunteer effort of the musicians, conductor, and friends who stepped forward for the cause. Leading this effort, was Gregory Heltman, our Founder and former executive director. Another such person was Gene B. Kuntz, who passed away in 2021 at age 90. When Greg announced The Symphony’s inaugural concert in 1984, Gene did not hesitate to volunteer, along with his wife Pat, to manage the reception area, welcome the attendees and collect the at-the-door contributions. He stayed on to be The Symphony’s founding treasurer, “not that we had much money in those early days,” stated Greg, “we didn’t even have a shoestring budget, more like a dental floss budget. We were energized by the packed house at St. Francis Auditorium and the free will offerings which brought in $1,800—The Symphony’s founding stake hold.”

Greg has performed with the Stockton Symphony, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and the Santa Fe Opera, and was principal trumpet and Assistant Orchestra Manager with the Hidden Valley Chamber and Opera Orchestra.  Greg retired from his 34 year position as Executive Director of the Santa Fe Symphony at the end of the 2018 season. In addition to performing on the trumpet, Greg is the Director of the Santa Fe Concert Band. The Heltmans have a son, Mark, who is in his engineering residency with the Virginia Department of Transportation in Richmond, VA.

© 2022 The Santa Fe Symphony & Chorus