Samuel Hankins was born into a musical family. His maternal grandmother played the piano and was a tremendous gospel singer. His father played harmonica and vocals in various R & B bands. His brother plays the piano, majors in voice and teaches elementary school music. So it was inevitable that Sam's musical education would begin at an early age. Encouraged by his father, Samuel Hankins Sr., young "Hank" began with the guitar. In middle school he switched to the trumpet. Again, encouraged by his father, Sam began playing in churches, professional bands and orchestras.
Sam's love of music led him to Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, where he earned his Bachelor's Degree in Music Performance. He became active in college joining the distinguish men of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. After college he joined the Air Force Jazz Band, The Pacesetters, stationed at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois. He remained with the Pacesetters as a trumpeter until the Air Force Base closed in 1991. Sam then returned to school, earning both a second Bachelors Degree and a Masters Degree in Music Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
As a trumpet player, Sam has performed and recorded with many bands: such as Glenn Miller big band, Clark Terry, circus bands, funk bands, on cruise ships, combos, and commercial recording sessions. He has performed with pop artist groups such as The O'Jays, Aretha Franklin, Al Jarreau, The Temptations, The Impressions, and The Dells.
Armed with this impressive array of degrees, experience, and credentials, Sam accepted the position of Band Director at Edison Middle School in September 1995. Sam led a struggling band program with limited participation into one of the premier middle school instrumental music programs in the United States. During his first year as Band Director, Sam led two bands to place first in division ratings in the State Music Competitions.
Since that time the Edison Band Program has earned extensive recognition as one of the premier middle school band programs in Illinois and nationwide by winning numerous Division I ratings, State and National awards and recognitions. During this time, Sam was invited to be a Guest Conductor for Jazz and Concert bands as well as a guest soloist. He also founded, organized and directed The East Central Illinois Jazz Institute, a summer jazz camp of approximately 20 students from throughout east-central Illinois. In 1998, Sam received The White House Letter recognizing the Edison Middle School Band Program signed by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Sam’s achievements are just too numerous to all mention here.
Sam left Edison Middle School in 2006 to pursue an international teaching career in the country of Bermuda. He then returned to the US in 2008 to teach at McKay High School in Salem, Oregon, again leading their Jazz Band & Marching Band to place within the top three in state competitions. Sam returned to Chicago in the fall of 2010 and was hired as Band Director at Christ Our Savior Catholic School in a temporary position. When this band program was terminated due to a lack of funding, Sam concentrated on pursuing his other passion in music, arranging and composing. This led to the release of 2 CD’s; Dream Catcher in July 2011 and his smooth jazz CD, “Nothing Between Us” in May 2012. Both CD’s have received lots of radio play around the world and the in the US.
Sam has recently accepted a position as Band Director at Crete-Monee Middle School in Chicago and is looking forward to working with band students again.