Most pianists boast of an early start on piano. With Justin Dillard it is precisely the opposite. Justin Dillard was born and raised on the west side of Chicago in a rich thriving musical home. A grandmother who played piano and sang, a jazz enthusiast grandfather, and a singing single mother who instilled in him the values of pride of self and fear of God. Moving to Oak Park for a chance at a better life, Justin learned quickly of the importance of education necessary to succeed.
While attending Percy Julian Jr. High School he was discovered by then choir director
Barbara Suggs-Mason. Escalating from Percy Julian Jr. High School he entered Oak Park and River Forest High School. Via Mrs. Suggs-Mason’s encouragement Justin began formal lessons in his junior year through the Steckman Studio of Music under the guidance of teacher and mentor Dave Gessner. After three years with Mr. Gessner, Justin moved on to further his musical training by teaching himself the rest of the knowledge he needed to survive in an advanced musical environment. Deciding in his final year of high school that music was to be his career of choice, he enrolled in the prestigious institution Vandercook College of Music; where he is currently earning his BA in music education.
Justin has had the privilege to have performed with and/or received tutelage from: McCoy Tyner, Kenny Garrett, Hamid Drake, Jon Faddis, Eric Lewis, Roy Hargrove, Ornette Coleman, Willie Clayton, Don Moye’, Herbie Hancock, Maurice Brown, Henry Grimes, Oliver Lake, Clark Terry, Wynton Marsalis, James Newton, Branford Marsalis,
Ellis Marsalis, Donald Harrison, and Delfeayo Marsalis.
He has also had the esteemed pleasure to have worked in conjunction and/or studied alongside prominent world-renowned resident musicians in and around the Chicago area, such as:
Von Freeman, Ernie Adams, Bobby Irving III, Malachi Thompson, Erma Thompson, Dee Alexander, Ari Brown, Thurman Barker, Hamiet Bluiett, Maggie Brown, Fred Anderson, The AACM Big Band, Billy Bang, Nicole Mitchell, Kahil El’Zabar, And Ernest Dawkins (Live The Spirit Big Band and Chicago 12 ensembles respectively).
Justin continues to advance his ambitions and transform his career by leading, orchestrating and creatively composing for his ensembles. All while accompanying great musicians around the world. Justin resides in Chicago.