The saxophone comes from the woodwind family of instruments and has a varying degree of popularity.

Some see it as the brass instrument blown on The Simpsons by the insufferable spiky-haired Lisa and others instinctively think of the hilarious antics of Youtube's Sexy Sax Man.

Wanganui Collegiate School deputy head boy Ethan Gillespie just simply likes Jazz.

"I've played in several different groups and Jazz is something I have always listened to, even before I picked up the saxophone," Gillespie says.

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"I don't particularly have a favourite piece, but anything with a bit of Jazz and swing in it is generally lively and fun."

Gillespie, 17, recently passed the grade 8 saxophone assessment, which is the top grade in the New Zealand Music Examinations Board.

During his assessment, he was accompanied by teacher Ingrid Culliford on the piano.

"You do three different pieces, two of them are set and one is your own choice, alongside that there are two sets of scales and musical knowledge of the pieces that you're doing," Gillespie says.

"It was a relief to pass it, there have been some long hours, a lot of work went into it and I was stoked to achieve it."

On the day, Cindy Lee also passed grade four on the flute, Alina Kim got grade three on the clarinet and Paul Bulbon passed grade three on the piano.

A week after the assessment Gillespie received feedback of his performance from the Wellington-based wind specialist that examined his efforts.

"Rhythmically I was a bit weak and she also recommended that I upgrade my saxophone at some stage," Gillespie says.

"But she liked the vibe, she enjoyed the way that I played the pieces and it was definitely good to get that feedback."

Gillespie decided he wanted to learn how to play an instrument in his last year at Marton's Huntley School, but as they had no violin teacher, saxophone was the pick.

He has no plans to make a career out of playing the piano, but Gillespie would like to continue performing.

"I'd like to find a band that can get gigs and play at people's events, that type of thing.

"Everybody listens to music, but it's cool to actually be able to play it."