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Evergreen Park teen blends her love of music, history

Mary Dickey an Evergreen Park High School senior is inspired by swing ermusic 1940’s thmakes her musician she is today.

Mary Dickey, an Evergreen Park High School senior, is inspired by the swing era music of the 1940’s that makes her the musician she is today. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 16, 2012 6:01AM



Music from the hottest bands blares from the rooms of many teenagers, but not Mary Dickey’s room.

The sounds of Glenn Miller top the charts of the Evergreen Park High School senior.

It is the famed big-band musician, arranger, composer and bandleader of the Swing Era of the 1940s who inspired Dickey to become the musician she is today.

“I heard a Glenn Miller CD when I was 10, and the saxophone sounded awesome,” said Dickey, who started playing the alto sax in fifth grade to replicate the sound.

By the time she was in sixth grade, she had joined the jazz band and started playing the tenor sax. Now the 17-year-old plays all four saxophones — the alto, tenor, baritone and soprano sax, plus the clarinet and the flute for the high school band.

Her favorite band activity is playing in the pit for the school’s musical productions.

“As a freshman, you get the books and they are actual Broadway scores,” Dickey said. “So playing in the pit has helped me improve because I almost quit early on because it was horrible. Now, three instruments and six key changes is no problem.

“It is a real confidence-booster, that’s for sure.”

Learning the challenging Broadway scores wasn’t easy.

“It was a process, and I kept challenging myself more and more,” Dickey said. “The turning point was the musical ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.’ There was no saxophone book, so the band director gave me the clarinet book instead. I challenged myself and taught myself the clarinet over the Christmas break. The show was in March that year, and by then I could play the book and I was quite proud of myself.”

Dickey always has enjoyed music. She started out playing the piano but abandoned it in favor of the sax, which was her true calling.

“I just love music and I enjoy practicing. When I’m stressed out, I pull out my instrument and play,” she said.

Yet when Dickey heads to college next year, she won’t be studying music, but history. Her specialty is 20th century American history.

“I have this fascination with World War II and the 1940s and 1950s,” Dickey said. “My grandpas would talk about the war and it would captivate me. There is something that strikes a chord in me and I just love it.”

Her favorite era in history gave birth to her favorite style of music.

“History and music are tied neck and neck for my favorite things,” she said.

Her plans are to attend graduate school and pursue a doctorate degree so she can work as a historian in Washington, D.C.

Dickey also is a member of mathletes, Scholastic Bowl, Snowball, Leadership, National Honor Society and Mustang Pride. For the last three years, she has spent her Saturdays co-teaching eighth-grade religious classes at Queen of Martyrs in Evergreen Park.

“I like the kids there. It is an amazing feeling helping a kid expand their religion and grow as people,” she said. “You can help influence a kid.”

Her mentors are her parents, Camille and David Dickey, of Evergreen Park.

“They have always helped guide me and be the best person I can be. My entire family is always there and help out no matter what,” she said.

But her motivation comes from within, she said.

“I have this drive that I just love learning,” Dickey said. “I want to go back to school and learn something. I feel useless when I’m not expanding my knowledge. Learning keeps me growing.”



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