Back in the 1970s and ’80s at Greensboro Day School, he was known as student Andy Heard.
Today, the music world knows Andreao “Andy” Heard as Fanatic, a Grammy Award-winning record producer for major artists in popular music.
On Wednesday, Heard returned to his alma mater to share his experiences and advice from 30 years in the music business.
He answered questions from moderator Jennifer Ford, the Upper School assistant director, and high school students who filled the school’s Sloan Theatre.
“Dream really, really big and match that with your work ethic,” Heard told students. “Make sure you are constantly working on your craft every single day. It’s impossible to do music every single day and not get good.”
Passion, hard work and focus have paid off for the multiplatinum record producer.
As a producer, he brings together a team of musicians, songwriters and artists to create a piece of music.
He produced the No. 1 smash “Crush on You” for Lil’ Kim’s debut album “Hard Corde” in 1996, and “Y’all Know” for Will Smith’s 1997 album, “Big Willie Style,” which sold roughly 10 million copies.
In 2001, he produced the song “Heaven Can Wait” for superstar Michael Jackson’s “Invincible” album.
He then produced the song “Speechless,” on Beyonce’s 2003 Grammy Award-winning album “Dangerously In Love.” Beyonce even mentioned him in her Grammy acceptance speech.
Heard also contributed as a producer on Anthony Hamilton’s 2013 Grammy-nominated album “Back To Love.”
Heard now is back in Greensboro from California.
He has started The Culture Pushers, a full-service entertainment company, with Hamilton and Hamilton’s manager, Eli Davis.
The company will move in February into Studio 503, the artists’ space that local developer Andy Zimmerman has created on East Washington Street, Heard said.
They will help artists make music, mix it and perform it live. They will shoot their videos and style their image. They also want to groom people for the executive side of the music business.
“I think there’s a lot of talent here,” Heard told Greensboro Day students. “Living in New York and LA, I ran into so many people from this region that are doing music. I wanted to come back here and help musicians, producers, songwriters, help them with the business aspect of it.”
Among students listening intently was junior Bennett Lewis.
“I am very interested in music production,” Lewis said before Heard spoke. “I’ve been making music for seven years or so. Any opportunity I get to meet with somebody who’s successfully made a career is really inspiring.”
Born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Heard moved to Greensboro as a youngster. From 1974 to 1982, he attended first through eighth grade at Greensboro Day. His mother, Bernice Turner, taught there for 35 years.
“Greensboro Day School was a big part of me understanding music in general,” he said. “Here I learned about pop music and classic rock music and all these different genres of music that I was able to put into hip-hop, that a lot of people weren’t sampling before.
“All the students that I went to school here with, they were always focused on career at an early age,” he added. “Just seeing that had me focused on career at a very early time in my life.”
He graduated from Smith High, then headed to the Art Institute of Atlanta. That’s where he first started learning to produce records.
He returned to Greensboro and, in 1988, started Payroll Records, where he produced hip-hop artists and learned the business side of music.
“That’s when I realized I could actually make a career out of this,” he said.
Record executive Vincent Herbert came across a song Heard had produced. The result: Heard moved to New York, where he connected with P. Diddy and became a part of his Hitmen production team. He produced records for the Notorious B.I.G. and Ma$e.
“It has always been about the passion of music for me,” Heard said. “When you find that, that will take you through those low periods when your business is not right or things are not going well in your career.”
Producing Michael Jackson’s record ranks among Heard’s career highs.
“Coming from Greensboro, I never thought in a million years I would be standing in front of him and having a conversation about music,” Heard said. “At that moment, I just felt like, if you dream big, anything can happen.”