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OPPY Award Winner 2015, Diane Ellis

Diane Ellis began playing the piano at age four and age nine switched to the alto saxophone. She studied music at Fiske, O'Keeffe and South Shore High. She attended Bradley University on a full scholarship and received two masters degrees, one in music performance from Northwestern University and one in Educational Leadership (EDL) from Concordia University. By 15, she had the burning desire and determination to become a famous international saxophonist.

She was determined to prove to her parents and herself that she was strong enough to make it a “man’s world.” Diane "LiL Sax" comes from a talented family of professional musicians. Two of her uncles are trombonist Morris Ellis, a big band leader and saxophonist Jimmy Ellis. She has been tutored in jazz and classical music by greats such as: Sonny Stitt, David ”Fat Head” Newman and Houston Person. She performed as a soloist in the World Jazz Festival in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and for two years at the October Fest in Ingolstadt, Germany. On the encore trip to Germany, Diane was the opening act for the late great Ray Charles. Today, Diane is a recognized master musician and a recording alto saxophone solo artist and a music educator/band director/entertainer. Her band is called the Jazzy Ladies.

She has been teaching in CPS for 20 years, 17 of them at Dixon Elementary. During the course of a week she teaches 21 music appreciation classes, after school beginning, concert, marching and jazz band to over 650 children. She believes that teaching includes giving students real life experiences and knowledge in business aspects of music, show business and the many careers involved in the music industry. She takes her band students to sit in on music jam sessions and to observe other musicians. Mainly, Diane teaches all of her general music students what to listen for in music, how to understand and enjoy it and how to be real listeners and supporters of the many genres of music.