Steve Ward selected for Lilly Endowment 2007 Teacher Creativity Fellowship

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Switzerland County Elementary School music teacher Steve Ward has been selected as a recipient of a 2007 Teacher Creativity Fellowship by the Lilly Endowment.

He is one of 129 teachers from Indiana who will receive a fellowship this year. Funded by the Lilly Endowment, the fellowships are designed to enable teachers, principals, guidance counselors, and school librarians the opportunity to take time to pursue their personal interests, explore subjects that interest them, or simply “get away”.

This is the 20th year that the fellowships have been awarded – and Steve Ward is one of 23 recipients this year who has been a recipient in the past. He also received a fellowship in 1997.

Steve Ward’s fellowship is for $8,000, and will focus on “Exploratory Jazz Improvisation with Piano and String Bass”.

“I’ll be taking lessons in both string bass and jazz piano,” Steve Ward said of his fellowship. “I’ll be practicing a lot; because the string bass is relatively new to me, so that will be interesting.”

Through the fellowship, Steve Ward has been able to purchase a string bass, and has been getting in some practice on it in preparation for the beginning of the fellowship this summer.

Steve Ward said that the fellowship involves a six week commitment, and most of that time he will be in this region, attending performances and other events in Louisville, Bloomington, and Cincinnati.

He will also take advantage of some relaxation time to gain more experience.

“Before I really begin the project, I’ll be going on vacation in South Carolina,” Steve Ward said. “While I’m there I expect to go to a jazz concert or two.”

The combination of string bass and piano is an interesting one for Steve Ward. He said that he took a class in string bass while in college and really liked it, but the cost of owning such an instrument made it prohibitive to buy.

“I would have loved to have continued playing it, but I couldn’t really afford it then,” he said. “But when the opportunity for this fellowship came up, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to go back to the string bass.”

An accomplished pianist well known throughout the region, Steve Ward said that the fellowship will take him in two different directions – with both leading to a better understanding of the jazz genre.

“With the string bass, I’m trying to get familiar with the instrument,” Steve Ward said. “But with the piano, I’m trying to get familiar with the ‘jazz idea’.”

As part of the fellowship, Steve Ward will be participating in “jam sessions” with jazz groups while playing the string bass; and he will also couple with other jazz instrumentalists while playing the piano.

A member of a Dixieland Band, Steve Ward said that the idea of beginning to explore jazz music came to him when the drummer in the Dixieland Band asked him to play the piano for the jazz band that the drummer was also a member of.

“I felt very inadequate,” Steve Ward said. “I just don’t have a very wide knowledge of jazz, so it made it difficult for me to play with them. Hopefully this will give me a much better understanding of that form of music.”

The fellowship also ties back to his teaching and his desire to impart a love of music on his students.

“Here the kids have been really interested in different instruments,” Steve Ward said of his students at Switzerland County Elementary School. “This week I have the string bass out here at school, and they’ve really been interested in that.”

The fellowship also allows Steve Ward to do more things on the piano, which will give him the opportunity to demonstrate different styles of music for his students.

“It all ties back in,” Steve Ward said. “Kids like to see you involved, and they like to be involved, too. Seeing these different instruments will make it easier for the children to appreciate music even more.”

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Steve Ward is a classically trained pianist who has taught at all levels, from elementary school to Hanover College.

He has also performed with well-known Christian recording artists such as Frank Boggs and Beverly Terrill, and is the pastor at Concord Community Church near Patriot.