Years before Richard Emery ever picked up a guitar, he knew.

Years before Richard Emery ever picked up a guitar, he knew.

His older brother, Jimmy, had been taking guitar lessons.

"I walked past his guitar, and I said to myself, 'I'm going to be a guitar player some day," Emery said.

However, wasn't until after a failed one-week attempt to play the trombone in the fifth grade that he picked up the guitar, he said. He's been playing it ever since, practicing for two hours a day.

The hard work and passion paid off this year: The Westerville South High School senior is the recipient of the 2010 Hank Marr High School Jazz Award for excellence in musicianship and performance among central Ohio's young students of jazz. Marr, who died in 2004, was a Columbus native known for playing jazz organ.

Emery, son of Iris and Doug Emery, was one of the finalists for the award last year, but didn't win. This year, he learned he was the winner via Facebook, when one of the other finalists contacted him to congratulate him.

The other finalists for the award were Brian Rhodus, a drummer and a senior at Dublin Coffman High School, and Dan Hitchcock, tenor saxophonist and sophomore at Worthington Kilbourne High School.

The three competed for the award April 24. Judges were Gene Walker, Tom Carroll and Eric Paton, all musicians, and last year's award winner, Chase Potter.

As the award-winner this year, Emery earned a $500 cash award and will play with the Columbus Jazz Orchestra at the Columbus Zoo July 16 for its JazZoo concert.

"I'm excited to play with them live," Emery said.

The 18-year-old recently returned from Italy, where he played with the Ohio Youth Jazz Ensemble at the Parma Jazz Festival. Emery considered himself lucky to attend because he was the only high school student on the trip; the rest of the musicians were college students.

"I love when I play with other people," Emery said. "You get that interaction through music that you don't get by anything else at least that's my experience. I express myself through it."

Emery is currently studying guitar with Capital University professor Stan Smith. He plans to attend City College of New York in Harlem, where he will study jazz performance.

"I play a whole lot of different stuff, but jazz is my main forte," he said. "It's a lot more musical. I think, with jazz, it's in how you express yourself with the notes you're playing."