The Jazz Arts Group of Columbus has named Dan Hitchcock, a junior at Worthington Kilbourne High School, the winner of the ninth annual Hank Marr High School Jazz Award.

The Jazz Arts Group of Columbus has named Dan Hitchcock, a junior at Worthington Kilbourne High School, the winner of the ninth annual Hank Marr High School Jazz Award.

A tenor saxophone player, Hitchcock was selected from three finalists, including Dylan Bram, a vibraphonist at Dublin Jerome High School, and William England, an alto saxophone player from Grove City High School.

Finalists were selected from an initial pool of entrants via submitted recordings. Judges were professional musicians Pete Mills, Tom Carroll and Jim Rupp.

"The playing levels of the participants seem to get better and better every year," Carroll said.

"When I found out who the other finalists were, I knew there was a strong possibility that I wouldn't win," Hitchcock told ThisWeek. "I kept practicing furiously. I was amazed when I found out I was the winner."

Hitchcock said Mark Donavan, head of the Columbus Youth Jazz Workshop, initially encouraged him to enter a few years ago. He said when his friend, Chase Potter, won the competition in 2009, "I made it a personal goal to try and win the competition."

Hitchcock started on the piano in kindergarten and the saxophone in sixth grade. He has played with the Columbus Youth Jazz Workshop and the Columbus Youth Jazz Orchestra, in addition to his school's wind ensemble, marching band, jazz band and pit orchestra.

He credited a number of past music teachers, including Jay Miglia, Donavan, Todd Stoll, Greg Taylor and Don Nathan, as well as his parents for their encouragement. He said he has modeled his playing after the "laidback tenor style" of players like Lester Young, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan and others.

"I know I can make a fool of myself by trying to play lots of notes, so I just try to play the good ones," he said.

Hitchcock said he hopes to continue his study of jazz saxophone in college.

As winner of the Hank Marr Award, Hitchcock received a $500 cash award and will perform as a featured guest artist with the Columbus Jazz Orchestra during its July 22 JazZoo concert.

Hank Marr was both an elite jazz organ player and prominent educator. The Jazz Arts Group established the award in Marr's name to honor his 50-plus years as a performer, teacher, arranger and conductor.