Student Spotlight: Justin Roman
As a DuPage County teen, Justin Roman had two dreams: pitch for the Cubs or be the next Michael Jackson.
Baseball didn't work out. But as co-host of B96 radio's Stylz and Roman show and as front man for a band that's opening for Pitbull, the College of DuPage graduate may yet achieve the Michael Jackson part.
Roman epitomizes the student with a dream who must change direction.
"I was groomed to play baseball," he said. At Lake Park High School, the left-handed pitcher won "all the awards you can win."
But the hoped-for Division I scholarship never materialized.
"It broke my heart," he said. "So, it was like, 'All right, I may not be good enough to pitch for the Cubs. Maybe music is the way I should go.' "
Roman caught the music bug as a Westfield Middle School student. There, he met Mike Lettieri of M&R Music, who did deejay duty for school dances. Lettieri let Roman and his friends perform at a dance. "The girls went crazy," he said.
After that, Roman hounded Lettieri for a job until he became an assistant mobile deejay.
"I really wanted to be up on stage," he said. "I wanted to be the center of attention."
Sometimes, Roman grabbed the microphone and sang along. The girls screamed some more. Lettieri said, "You should put a group together. You've got a good voice. You have good stage presence."
So Roman did. And Lettieri put them on stage at local festivals. The girls screamed some more.
When baseball fell through, the self-described "mama's boy" decided to stay home, enroll at College of DuPage and find a new direction.
"COD was the best choice I could have made," Roman said. "Instead of wasting time, I got all my general education out of the way. I got my associate's degree, and it bought me about two years to figure out where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. Plus, it saved my parents money."
From COD, Roman enrolled in Elmhurst College, where he quickly earned a bachelor's degree in business and landed a promotion department internship at B96. That, in turn, led to an invitation to make a deejay demo tape with friend Dougie Stylz. The rest is Chicagoland radio history.
Today, Roman is riding high. As founder and front man of the band Jump Smokers, he and his band mates have been opening for Pitbull's national tour. Stylz and Roman are still soaring on Chicago radio.
And while the Cubs fan may not have landed that pitching gig, he did get to throw out the first ball at a Cubs game, and he and Stylz got to sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during a seventh-inning Wrigley Field stretch.
Having missed out on one dream and scored with another, Roman offers this advice to students:
"I don't care what you go into -- music, sports, medicine, law -- never give up," he said. "Because persistence pays off, and people who quit are never going to make it.
"People will say, 'No, you can't pitch for the Cubs. No, you can't be the next Michael Jackson.' You're going to hear 1,000 nos. But one 'yes' will change your entire life. I'm living proof of that."
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