The ArtStar program, sponsored by Peoples Bank, recognizes seniors in Lawrence high schools who demonstrate outstanding achievement in the fine arts. Honorees also must excel academically.
Nine monthly winners (September-May) will be selected via nomination by fine arts teachers and featured in the Journal-World and on 6News. An overall winner will be chosen from among those and designated ArtStar of the Year. The annual award will come with a scholarship.
In addition, nominations will be taken for promising students outside the senior class for up to two honorable mention spots each month.
For more information, contact Terry Rombeck, Journal-World features/special sections editor, at email@example.com or 832-7145.
Xander Casad can quickly run through the list of jobs he wanted to have while growing up.
"I wanted to be a butler, a submarine captain, president, a baseball umpire," he says.
Lately, the Lawrence High School senior had been thinking about a career as an English or anthropology professor. But something clicked during the LHS Winter Court assembly in February.
"I decided ... when they were playing a bunch of Disney tunes and ABBA songs, that I really do like music a lot," he says.
Enough to pursue it as a career.
Casad, who plans to major in music composition this fall at Kansas University, is the ArtStar award winner for the month of April. The honor is sponsored by Peoples Bank.
He's a three-time saxophone player in the All-State Band, a three-year member of the LHS Symphonic Band and Jazz Ensemble I, drum major and member of the school's A Cappella Choir.
"He loves music, and he's a great leader," says Mike Jones, LHS band director. "Kids love him. I really like working with him. He's really incredible. For me, he's a drum major and he's an All-State saxophonist, and he's one of those kids who is just a gem."
Casad played piano growing up, but it wasn't until he heard a jazz recording of the Dave Brubeck Quartet that he found his true musical calling. When he was in fourth grade, his parents bought him a saxophone so he could get a head start on school band, which starts in sixth grade.
"We went to this little, tiny apartment in this bad part of Kansas City and bought a couple-hundred-dollar saxophone from this really crazy guy," Casad recalls. "I learned that night how to play the do-re-me thing from 'The Sound of Music.'"
He's been playing the saxophone ever since, now studying with KU professor Vince Gnojek and practicing around an hour every night.
"Xander is an interesting case study," Jones says. "I don't think he's the absolute most naturally talented person that we've ever had come through here. But he is absolutely one of the most dedicated, and he's worked on it to the point that he has become one of the best players who has ever gone through here."
He stayed busy aside from the music, as well. His grade point average is above 3.9, he's a National Merit Scholar finalist, member of the National Honor Society, treasurer for the LHS Young Democrats and is involved in the Graffiti literary magazine.
Casad says he had struggled with the idea of pursuing a career in music because he didn't think he would have the patience to be a high school band director.
"I didn't know if I wanted to teach the same songs every three years for the rest of my life, and get a band from nothing to really good and have it go away every year," he says.
But that thinking changed when he started considering teaching at the college level.
"Music is just too ingrained in him, so we've talked about it lots of times," Jones says. "He's very into symphonic music, and I think he's going to be great at it. He needs to go for it, and once he's made that decision, he's been a lot happier."
And, standing in front of an orchestra with a baton, Casad will have the opportunity to be around a style of music he hasn't been a part of as a saxophone player.
"My favorite is really full orchestra music," he says. "That's where the really cool music is."