Members of the Canyon del Oro High School jazz band drag into class in the K building and begin pulling out trumpets and saxophones, fiddling on the piano and thumping on bass. Junior Lucas Gillan strides in at the last second,"in typical drummer fashion," says band director Darrell Prochaska, and after a couple of quick hellos, sits down behind the drum set.
"Here we go," Prochaska says, snapping his fingers on beat, "one, two, ah-one, two, three four."
The band breaks into an alternative b-flat blues piece with Lucas - looking eerily like a young Elvis Costello - keeping the rhythm section going. The song ends and Prochaska challenges, "Who was rushing?"
Hemming and hawing ensues until someone accuses the saxophones. Prochaska looks at Lucas and commands, "Don't let them pull you up - you hold them back. They're only saxophones."
At 16, Lucas is something of a celebrity around Tucson and at CDO. Watching him sight-read whatever is placed in front of him, one gets the impression the young drummer consumes music the way the rest of us digest food: naturally, instinctively, without thought, as easily as breathing.
"Lucas plays the drum set better than any high school kid I've ever heard, and probably better than most of the guys around town - he is really, really that good," Prochaska said, joking that he calls his student 'Dr. Theory.' "He is part of the music, he knows exactly what to do and I find it tremendous to watch."
Homero Cern, principle percussionist with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, agrees.
"He is a joy to have around," said Cern, who is giving Lucas private orchestral percussion lessons this fall. "In such a brief time he's proven to be dedicated. I've learned with him that once he sets his mind that he's going to do (something), he just gets it done. I don't have to tell him twice - I explain once, he takes it home to practice, when he comes back, he has it down."
Lucas downplays the attention.
"I would say I have opportunities to be humbled every day, and I am," he says. "Every time I listen to local (professional) drummers, I'm humbled. When you have more knowledge about music you notice when people know even more than you. I listen to jazz every day and every record is humbling."
By all accounts, the Gillan family is musically inclined: Lucas' mother plays drums and guitar, his father plays piano and sings, his eldest brother played saxophone during middle and high school, and his other brother played trumpet and bass, and his sister, flute.
"It was just understood in our family that you played an instrument and so when fourth-grade came around, I looked at what everyone else was playing and I decided to play drums," Lucas says.
That decision made, there was no stopping him.
"His first performances outside of school band were for church," mom Meagan says.
Lucas' father, Scot, is pastor of Grace Community Covenant Church on La Cholla Boulevard.
"Our youth worship leader asked him to play drums for vacation bible school when he was about 10 years old. He could hardly reach the pedals on the bass drum, but he did an OK job for someone so little. Having Jed put faith in him when he was so young really showed him a great opportunity of how to serve God with music and gave him confidence to perform publicly."
Two years later, after taking private drum lessons, Lucas auditioned for the Tucson Jazz Society's JazzWerx program. He has played with JazzWerx - the TJS audition-only honors jazz band for middle school and high school students - for five years, in addition to playing for two years in citywide middle school jazz combos, three years with the CDO jazz band, participating with professional jazz musicians at the TJS jam sessions and, this year, playing with a jazz combo of University of Arizona students.
"I encouraged Lucas to audition for the university jazz ensembles because I saw the talent he has," says Doug Tidaback, assistant to the director of Jazz Studies at the UA. "The university has traditionally made room for talented high school students who show dedication and promise, and Lucas has lots of both. He would have made one of the big bands as the drummer - he is that good - but we couldn't take that position away from a college student, so we gave him an opportunity to play in a combo.
"He excels because he doesn't just try to be the top kid in the room - he tries to be the best he can be," Tidaback continues. "In addition, his attitude is wonderful: he's coachable and takes feedback and with that attitude he's grown a lot quicker than most players."
What is it like playing, at 16, with professionals at TJC jam sessions or with UA musicians?
"No one has ever made me feel out of place," Lucas says. "Professional musicians will tell you that to get better, you need to play with people who are better than you. The combo at the UA, they are all older than me, but they treat me as an equal. I like being with my peers at CDO, but I like the jazz combo at the university because it challenges me."
His mother, Meagan, says that Lucas was approached last year by gigging musicians at one of the jam sessions to join their band in cutting a studio CD.
"That was a tremendous confidence builder, to have adults ask him to play in a studio with them," she says. "Then, when Lucas had to do a CD for a scholarship audition, turn about was fair play because these guys came to him - a bunch of older gentlemen, professional jazz players in town - and said, 'Don't worry, we'll come to the studio and lay it down with you.' It was great."
In addition to playing in the UA jazz combo, Lucas takes a music theory class every morning at the university before starting his day at CDO. "It is very early and very far away," he says, belying his teen-age side.
Gillan says all her children were exposed to the arts early on.
"We've done nothing special for Lucas," she explains. "We wanted all our kids to be exposed to all the wonderful things God has for us in the music and the arts. So we visited museums and we saw musicians. The difference with Lucas is he is focused.
"He has more interest and is more motivated toward music than his sibs," she continues. "I know, listening to him, that he could never improve and still play professionally. Since it became so evident there's something special going on with him musically, we actually feel a burden as parents: What is the right way to guide his gifts?"
Being a teen-ager, Lucas is not all jazz and classical studies and playing. He has composed music for and played either drums or guitar in a number of punk rock bands at parties around town and at Skrappy's, Tucson's all-ages club.
He carries a full load of honors classes at CDO, including advanced placement calculus and U.S. history.
Lucas plans to be a professional musician, although he admits that "no one knows what that will entail."
"It could involve composition, gigging, teaching or jingle writing," Lucas says. "I've observed what my private instructors have had to do to make a living making music and in meeting with the musicians at the jam sessions, they've told me about it. I'm realistic in knowing that the future of an aspiring musician is not always bright and you have to be flexible. But it is my goal to do music professionally."
Lucas says he listens to Tchaikovsky nearly every day - "He's my favorite classical musician" - and his jazz influences include Duke Ellington and Miles Davis. His favorite drummers are Tony Williams and Bill Stewart and "as far as rock goes, it is the best: the Beatles and Radio Head."
But although Lucas admits he has many influences on earth, his biggest influence is heavenly.
"I could not say enough that the only reason I have any talent, opportunities or motivation is because of my Creator and Savior," he says. "That is the most important aspect in all parts of my life, including the musical parts."