Eisenhower High School band director Dr. Justin Antos has helped train young musicians for 14 years, using the art form to forge connections and help establish character qualities that can travel beyond the stage.
“Inclusivity and giving kids opportunity to thrive in music is really the cornerstone of our program and if you’re not doing something that makes the world a better place, you’re doing it incorrectly,” Antos said. “No kid can really give their 100% to anything until they first feel loved and encouraged. And I think active engagement here at our music classes here at Eisenhower is a great way to make sure needs are being met.”
Meeting their needs comes first for Antos. That was apparent when he found and purchased – with his own money- tribal drums for their last marching band show.
The Grammy-nominated orchestra leader was recently named one of 30 music teachers across the nation to be honored with an excellence award by the Country Music Association.
He invested the grant money back into his classes to purchase percussion instruments.
“In our percussion class, we took the drums and refurbished them,” he said. “Kids took off heads, and refurbished hardware.”
A close friend of his at Guitar Center in Country Club Hills donated hardware for the project, free of charge.
“Our kids gave those drums a lot of TLC. What better way to give more life to them than donate those drums,” he said.
Eisenhower High School principal Benjamin Blakeley believes that Antos’ impact on the school cannot be overstated.
“Who would think of that? I wouldn’t,” he said. “For him to even have that type of vision, and give students a skill set to get funds or work for college. Great vision. Sometimes as a school leader you might get a little jealous because they respond to him in ways that- it’s amazing.”
Blakeley marvels at the transformations the young students show as they go through the program.
“They don’t coming in knowing how to play,” he says. “He gets them to a point where they’re winning state competitions. It’s just amazing, and he’s amazing.”