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Saxophone player earns spot in All-State band

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He studies jazz and plays the saxophone in his free time.

Picking the saxophone six years ago seemed like a good choice for Evan Ward, a Whiteland Community High School junior. He wanted to be in band, so he chose the instrument along with the marimba in percussion.

In the saxophone, Ward found one of his musical passions: jazz.

“The saxophone seemed cool and simple,” he said.

And he has been chosen as one of the top jazz players in the state. Ward has been selected to the Indiana All-State Jazz band.

Students are chosen from all across the state for Indiana All-State bands. Ward, playing saxophone, was chosen for the most selective band, said Pete Sampson, band director.

Only 25 students from across the state were chosen, and Ward is one of five who was chosen for saxophone, Sampson said.

As a member of the school’s marching and concert bands, Ward plays many types of music.

By far, jazz captured him and became his favorite, he said.

Other types of music are rigid and can be too structured. Jazz is smooth and more fun to play, he said.

But being a member of the other bands helps his technique and will give him the skills to play jazz better, he said.

When he decided to audition for the Indiana All-State Jazz band, it seemed like an easy decision.

Sampson pushed Ward to audition for the jazz band after he performed a saxophone solo well last year, Sampson said.

“I really pushed him this year to try it,” Sampson said. “I could really see his potential at that point.”

Band directors have started pushing students to audition for all-state bands, Sampson said.

Students chosen for an all-state band were completely immersed in music for two days as part of the Indiana Bandmasters Convention in Fort Wayne.

Selections are based on pure talent. Directors don’t write letters of recommendation. Young musicians make a tape with both a submitted piece and a chosen piece of music.

Being among some the best in the state could only help Ward, Sampson said.

Ward has worked with other members of the jazz band with the director of Chicago’s DePaul University.

“It will give me experience with more difficult music,” he said.

While talent got Ward a spot on the band, he believes hard work was a big help, too, he said.

He practices the saxophone at least a few days a week, and prepared for the all-state band by practicing every day. For about the past year, he has also taken private lessons on the saxophone.

“I would sit down with it just about every day,” he said.

“I work hard at it, I always have. I can always get better.”

And he wants to get better and make playing music into a career, he said.

He wants to go to college to earn a degree in music, possibly in jazz studies or music education.

“This is what I want to do, this is what I see myself doing,” Ward said.

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