Rob Vega’s band classes at Rauner College Prep are not always on key– and they may not always have perfect pitch.
But they are in harmony on one thing. They can’t wait to get to his class.
Maria Arias said “It’s the highlight of my day I love it I can go in there and play music an uninterrupted for an hour.”
Jonathan Romero said he “Can’t get enough of this guy, he’s really cool he’s down to earth.”
Vega grew up not far from Rauner in Humboldt Park– giving him a certain connection with these kids.
“Mr. Vega like me comes from the same places so seeing him being able to do so much,” Maria said, “Makes me know that I can do it too.”
How do you describe your style? “Unorthodox, without a doubt.”
Especially when it comes to discipline.
“It’s not me being angry with the students it’s my passion and I’m passionate to see them succeed.” Vega said, “And you know, I talk to my student the same way I talk to my children, it’s hard for me to differentiate between the two.”
For students like Jonathan Romero it strikes a chord—“My neighborhood isn’t the greatest with his class, teaching discipline and responsibility– it keeps me strong, away from those wrong paths.”
Maria Arias has Vega for two band classes and says his brand of teaching has changed her life.
“Yes, O.M.G. Mr. Vega– wow, I used to be not the best student Mr. Vega has pushed me in every way possible. Ok control it though we want to work on good tone.”
As the program’s one man band, Vega oversees 350 students, and sometimes has 60-70 kids in the classroom at a time.
Eric Thomas, Asst. Supt. for the noble network of charter schools said “You’ll sometimes see him sitting with the kids playing trumpet and model what they’re doing but he requires a lot from them and he gives a lot back.”
“I decided to take on such a large band program because I wanted to make sure that every student has an opportunity to take some type of art,” Vega said.
Vega owes his exposure to music and the arts to his parents, who moved their child out of Humboldt Park, after a frightening incident.
“12:45 a.m. my father woke up early to go to work and somebody threw a dead body in front yard, my parents said enough is enough– my parents decided to move me to Indiana, they have every single type of art,” Vega said, “It’s unfair that they didn’t’ provide these types of outlets when I was growing up.”
This single father of two still lives in Indiana– commuting everyday with his kids who go to school a few blocks from Rauner.
“I’m here early in the morning; by the time I get here I have at least a dozen students waiting at the door before I even open it up,” Vega said.
His dedication and inspiration caught the eye of people magazine. He’s the publication’s teacher of the year.
“I think it’s an absolute honor to be selected as p magazine’s teacher of the year, but on top of it they selected a music teacher,” he said.
Students relate to Vega and he goes out of his way to relate with them as well.
‘I have to keep up with the students yea I have and on my way home my log commute back to Indiana I’m listening to Rihanna you know…this isn’t bad, Vega said. “I think I just heard 2 chains, you never heard of two chains I’ve heard of one chain.”
Maria said “The things that I’ve learned from Mr. Vega, are the things that I know that I’m gonna want to teach my kids if I have any when I grow up.”
Rob Vega, he’s one of Chicago’s Very Own.