A passion for drums and community service has landed a full-ride scholarship at one of the nation’s top 10 music schools for one Tooele High school senior.
Fascinated with a performance of a high school drumline while in fourth grade, Cendan Dillon signed up for the school band in fifth grade — playing the drums.
Two weeks ago, after a rigorous competitive process, Dillon was named the Wasatch Region Instrumental Music Sterling Scholar.
Cendan’s father, Toby Dillon, has researched back at least a decade and has not found another instrumental Sterling Scholar from Tooele High School.
To enter the Sterling Scholar program, Cendan first had to perform and be judged by a group of teachers at Tooele High School to be selected to represent the school in the regional Sterling Scholar competition.
The regional scholarship program involved writing essays, videos of Cendan performing music, and a long application, according to Cendan.
Cendan has been a percussionist for eight years now, including playing marimba for the high school marching band and drums for the jazz band. Cendan also participates in The Battalion Drum and Bugle Corps, an statewide audition selected marching group that consists of brass, percussion, and color guard.
Cendan also successfully completed a virtual audition — playing timpani snare drums, the marimba, and the xylophone — for the UMA’s Virtual All-State Band and played with the San Jose State University Virtual Honor Band.
Cendan grew up in a family that loves music.
“We’re a musical family,” said Toby Dillon. “So Cendan grew up surrounded by musical instruments and singing. Carina (Cendan’s mother) is also a percussionist and passed along some of her knowledge that way, as well as teaching the kids piano.”
Cendan also had private lessons in percussion.
Once Cendan started playing drums in the band, he started rhythm tapping “to the point of occasionally irritating everyone in earshot,” Toby Dillon said.
Cendan’s talent isn’t limited to band.
Cendan also sings in show choir and dances with THS’s Z-motion ballroom dance group.
But the high school band is a significant place for Cendan.
Cendan, who described himself as non-binary and queer, said band was his safe place during their freshman year of high school.
“Non-binary” denotes a gender identity not defined by traditional male and female binary opposites. The term “queer,” once a derogatory term, is now used in the LGBTQ community to describe a gender identity or orientation that is not heterosexual or cisgender (birth gender).
“High school was not a safe place during my freshman year,” Cendan said. “But I found band to be a safe place where people of diverse types were accepted.”
In addition to three performing groups, Cendan has also served as a student body officer, a position that has given them an opportunity to plan and carry out several service activities for students.
Cendan has been accepted, with a full ride scholarship, at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio, one of the top music schools in the country, according to Cendan.
Cendan plans to continue his music education at Oberlin.
“My future?” said Cendan. “I just want to play drums somewhere.”