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The student news site of Downers Grove South High School


The student news site of Downers Grove South High School


Musical Mastery: Lucas Ciocan journeys to jazz genius

Liam Wells
Senior Lucas Ciocan performs skillfully on his tenor saxophone during a jazz concert.

“We’re ready for another one,” the sound engineer says. The room turns silent. All eyes lock on the director’s hand, waiting to deliver the starting note.

Icy rain will sweep the recording studio in less than an hour, so this is their last chance at a good take. Senior Lucas Ciocan, the first chair tenor saxophonist for the Youth Jazz Ensemble of DuPage (YJED), stands apprehensively in the sectioned solo room with a microphone looming over the bell of his saxophone.

“It was a magical moment. We all knew what we had to do, and there was this subconscious comradery before that last take,” Ciocan said.

One month later, on a block period Wednesday, Lucas and his ensemble received news of their superlative achievement.

Ciocan’s feature solo played an important part in advancing YJED to the final round of Essentially Ellington, the world’s most notable high school jazz competition. No other jazz band in the Chicago-land area has advanced since 2015. They will compete for the top three bands at the Lincoln Center in New York City on May 11.

“The words on the screen didn’t seem real. Anthony (our trumpet player) and I paced around the room with our hands on our heads in disbelief. We went out in the crowded hallway to see our drummer, Gavin, sprinting to us at full speed with wide eyes,” Ciocan said

At that moment Lucas and his bandmates never felt more proud to be jazz musicians.

“I’m looking forward to it. I’ll meet people who I might play with for the rest of my life,” Ciocan said.

Ciocan (left) stands next to his fellow jazz students and director.

Fine Arts Departement Chair Jerry Lowry directs the DGS Jazz ensemble. Lowrey has a close relationship with Ciocan and works to refine his musical talent along with other YJED Jazz musicians who also perform in the DGS Jazz band. Through both the music of the DGS Jazz Ensemble and an individual focus on developing Lucas’s talent, Lowrey has shaped the direction of Ciocan’s jazz career tremendously.

“The most important influence I had on Lucas when I first started to work with him, and was having a conversation with him about how to listen to jazz-how to take ideas and mold them into your own, and how to become a jazz musician through the language of the ancestors. He really picked up on this idea and began listening to jazz and practicing almost constantly. It made a world of a difference and I noticed very quickly that he was going to do special things with his talent and discipline,” Lowrey said.

Ciocan made the highest jazz ensemble as a freshman and continued for the rest of his high school career. He developed a passion for the jazz saxophone that will continue for the rest of his life.

“I played piano in sixth grade at a jazz camp but switched to the saxophone after hearing my friend play; I loved the sound and style. I grew a deeper attraction for jazz after he [Lowry] introduced me to the greater culture and oral traditions. I matured my ears just as much as I practiced my instrument,” Ciocan said.

Junior Gavin Schnall is the drummer for YJED Jazz and DGS Jazz Ensemble and shared his experiences with Ciocan during their time working together.

“I have gotten the privilege to work with Lucas over the past three years, and I’ve learned so much more from my work with him than I have working with any other esteemed musician. His work ethic and light-heartedness makes the music fun and easy, and makes it something to look forward to every day,” Schnall said.

Lowrey shares a similar sentiment toward Ciocan’s contribution to the DGS Jazz Ensemble and the Dupage Jazz Ensemble.

“Lucas has shown immeasurable growth as a musician in the three short years I have worked with him. His work ethic and drive to understand the culture of jazz has resulted in him being honored at the highest level. Most importantly, he always appreciates the most important ingredient along the way, he listens to the music persistently and appreciates it as a language,” Lowrey said.

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    Adrian HerresMay 8, 2024 at 12:27 pm

    Join Blueprint.

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    Max TylkaMay 8, 2024 at 11:52 am

    Cool article 👍

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    Liam WellsMay 2, 2024 at 12:50 pm

    Join Blueprint.