Sycamore Music Boosters Award Continuing College Music Scholarship

Sarah Grant-Continuing Ed ScholarshipSycamore Music Boosters is pleased to announce Sarah Grant is the recipient of their annual Continuing College Music Scholarship. This scholarship award is designed to assist Sycamore High School graduates in continuing their music education in college. Sarah Grant was awarded this scholarship in recognition of her outstanding musicianship, music and academic achievements, and overall participation in music.

Sarah Grant, a Sycamore High School graduate from 2014, is starting her junior year at Butler University pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education. She has been highly involved member in a variety of Butler ensembles including the Butler University Symphony Orchestra serving as Co-Principal Bassist, Ballet Pit Ensemble, Composer’s Orchestra, and Chamber ensembles. Sarah has performed with the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the DeKalb Municipal Band. She currently is serving as a Stagehand at the Schrott Center for the Arts, a Recording Technician and Stage Manager at Eidson-Duckwell Recital Hall, is a private Double Bass instructor, and was a High School Girls Division Cabin Counselor this summer at Interlochen Center for the Arts. She also recently returned from a Butler University Music History study abroad program in Paris, France. Additionally, Sarah is a member of Mu Phi Epsilon: Kappa Chapter serving as Secretary for this professional music fraternity, Indiana Music Education Association, National Association for Music Education, GrammyU, and Butler University Music Industry Association. As a scholarship recipient, she will continue to pursue her dedication to music while completing her last years of college music education with the hopes to become an Orchestra Director and/or General Music Teacher at a secondary level.

The Sycamore Music Boosters support all students in grades K-12 in various music programs offered within the district and comprises of a group of volunteers families and friends of students enrolled in music education classes in Sycamore Schools. For more information about Sycamore Music Boosters, please visit or follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  For more information on scholarships, please contact Laurie Emmer, Scholarship Chair, at


577 - ILMEA All State Send Off 2016 001-croppedSeventeen Sycamore High School students were selected to participate in the 2016 Illinois Music Education (ILMEA) Conference recently held at the Peoria Civic Center in Peoria, Illinois. Sycamore High School has been represented at the prestigious All-State Conference numerous times and Sycamore again has one of the largest contingents in the state of All-State musicians in attendance. This year, Sycamore High School had the 11th largest All-State music student representation of any high school in Illinois. Students were selected via a rigorous audition process from the district ILMEA festival held earlier this year. Illinois has 9 districts throughout the state, and each district was able to send their top students to be represented at this All-State Conference. Scott Mertens, Sycamore School District Music Department Chair comments, “The all-state music experience is unlike any other musical experience.  Students from the entire state come together, are placed into performing ensembles, and put together a concert of challenging music in less than three days.  It is a unique and exciting opportunity for high school musicians that they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

All-State musicians were treated to a special rally as they departed for the weekend festival. Fellow students, faculty, and family gathered in the Choir Room for a brief send-off. Scott Mertens comments in a brief speech, “These students were not selected for All-State just because of their talent, but also because of their dedication and choice to spend extra time practicing the audition music. They chose to do something, and do it well.” He also acknowledged the private teachers of these students and their parents and families for their unending support.

Congratulations to the following students from Sycamore High School who have the distinguished honor of being selected for All-State:

All-State Honors Band: Ella Rose Atkins, Emma Olson

All-State Band:  Alex Cuthbert, Bret Reser

All-State Honors Choir: Mary Flaherty, Trevor McDonald

All-State Choir:  Lauren Brazeau, John Lerohl, Anna McComb

All-State Honors Orchestra:   Rachel Hecht, Jessica Luo, Kailey Mulligan, Andrew Selig, Ben Van Wienen

All-State Orchestra:  Brett Brancato, Kjelden Breidenbach, Evan Jacobs

Ben Van Wienen, Rachel Hecht, and Ella Rose Atkins all placed 3rd overall in their    respective ensembles.  In addition, Emma Olson placed 4th, Andrew Selig placed 8th, Kailey Mulligan placed 23rd, and Jessica Luo received the 14th highest score overall on violin.  (Side note–Honors Choir doesn’t have chair placement information)

During the festival weekend, participants attended numerous rehearsals, attended workshops, panel discussions and master classes, and performed a concert at the Peoria Civic Center.  The opportunity for students and staff to attend this festival was made possible by the Sycamore Music Boosters. Profits from their annual fundraisers are dedicated to support the students and staff of Sycamore music students. Their annual A Note to Remember event is scheduled for Saturday, February 13 at Blumen Gardens from 7:00 – 11:00 pm and will feature the Pete Benson Trio, Mr. Myers Trio led by Todd Donnelly on the Steel Pan Drums, the Sycamore High School (SHS) Jazz Ensemble, SHS Jazz Choir, and other student ensembles. Tickets are $30.00 and are available to purchase at the Sycamore High School main office, Northern Rehab Physical Therapy Specialists 3266 Resource Parkway office in DeKalb, Kar Fre Flowers, Shawn’s Coffee Shop, via       E-mail at or by calling 815.751.8388.

For more information about the Sycamore District music programs, Sycamore Music Boosters, and A Note to Remember, please visit and follow Sycamore Music Boosters on Facebook and Twitter.

Sycamore Music Boosters Announce Sycamore High School 2016 Music Hall of Fame Inductees

2016 Hall of FameThe ongoing Sycamore High School Music Hall of Fame awards program will annually honor and recognize a variety of Sycamore High School alumni and music advocates who have demonstrated superior participation and/or support of the Sycamore music programs.  Sycamore Music Boosters is pleased to announce the 2016 Sycamore High School Music Hall of Fame inductees include Bob Abel, Dan Andree, Jim Hendricks, and Marilyn Montzka.

In its fourth year, the Sycamore Music Boosters will host an official ceremony to induct the 2016 Music Hall of Fame honorees on Saturday, February 13, in the Sycamore High School Auditorium at 2:30 pm.  This brief afternoon program will include a formal introduction of each inductee and may include musical performances and short tribute speeches. The Sycamore High School All-State musicians will also be recognized during this ceremony. The updated 2016 trophy case located across the hall from the auditorium will be unveiled and the program concludes with a light reception. The public is welcome and invited to attend this free ceremony.

Bob Able, Advocate Award recipient, began teaching in the Sycamore School District in 1973 as a part-time vocal teacher, and was hired full-time the following year as the high school choral director. That same year (1974) he introduced “Madrigal” music into the curriculum and started the Madrigal dinners, complete with original Elizabethan costumes and full dinners. Bob continued to increase the choral curriculum by starting a Swing Choir, festival tours and recording albums with his choirs. During his tenure, he directed or co-directed 31 musical productions at the Middle School and also initiated a guitar/piano curriculum there. During his many years in the district, Bob was a staunch advocate for the Sycamore music, theatre and arts programs, and he was an ardent and active volunteer for the Sycamore Music Boosters, contributing his time and talent to all of these programs. He was also involved with the DeKalb Municipal Band, served as a choral director at several churches, and directed productions with the Children’s Community Theatre and Stagecoach Players.  Bob retired from the Sycamore School District in 2014, after being a music teacher to thousands of young people in Sycamore, and many who are now music teachers and performers.

Dan Andree, Legacy Award recipient, is a 2005 Sycamore High School graduate. He played violin in the Orchestra throughout high school and was selected for ILMEA All-District Orchestra and All-State Orchestra. He was also an active vocal musician during high school participating in Concert Choir, Madrigals, and Jazz Choir, was selected for ILMEA All-District Jazz Choir his senior year, and had roles in the musicals. Dan attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Ethnomusicology.  There he made life-long friendships with peers who played bluegrass music which provided him the tools to start a profession in bluegrass music joining the internationally touring group, the Henhouse Prowlers. Touring extensively throughout the United States and Europe, they then began a string of tours with the U.S. State Department. Dan knows how lucky he is to have been able to grow up in the Sycamore school district and he will take the lessons he has learned from its talented faculty into the years of soul-filling music to come.

James Hendricks, Legacy Award recipient, graduated from Sycamore High School in 1991 as the Valedictorian of his class.  He was involved in music throughout his education in the Sycamore school district beginning piano at age 6. Throughout high school, Jim played the alto saxophone as a member of the concert band, marching and pep bands.  He was a pianist in the Jazz Ensemble and jazz combos, and played in the Orchestra.  He was selected for ILMEA District jazz ensembles, being named the number one jazz pianist in the district, as well as being selected as the “top seat” in the All-State Jazz Band and All-State Honors Jazz Combo. Jim earned his Bachelor of Music degree from Northern Illinois in piano performance with a jazz emphasis, then earned his Master of Music in piano performance and pedagogy from NIU. He has performed with a variety of jazz groups such as the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the All-American Orchestra, the Carnival Cruise lines Holiday Shop Big Band, and with the Piotr Bal Jazz Group.  He has had notable guest appearances with jazz greats Tito Puente, Clark Terry, Louie Bellson, Della Reese, Rita Moreno, Rosemary Clooney, Jack Jones, Maynard Ferguson, and others. In recent years, Jim has become involved in the Christian music ministry.  He has performed more than 1,300 Christian piano concerts in churches all across the U.S., including three appearances at the Crystal Cathedral.   He has made fourteen piano recordings, performed on ABC, CBS, TBN and PAX, authored the book “Contemporary Arrangements for Today’s Church Pianist,” and has been featured in the Clavier piano journal. Since 1998, he has been a Professor of Music at Chicago State University and teaches a variety of music courses including applied piano, jazz piano, class piano, music theory, and fundamentals of music.  

Marilyn Montzka, Advocate Award recipient, became involved in the Sycamore school district when she moved here in 1973 with her husband, Art. Marilyn grew up in a “musical” family and she has been involved in music all of her life.  As a youth, she played several instruments including the piano, flute, cornet, French horn, and viola, but ultimately stayed with the piano and viola as her primary instruments.  She attended and graduated from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music with a Bachelor degree in Music Education where she was introduced to the Suzuki method and she established the desire to teach the Suzuki method. Marilyn began her advocacy for music education with her involvement for the Sycamore High School to have a full-time orchestra teacher. She was also heavily involved in the Sycamore Music Boosters and started the private lessons program in the district. She spent many years helping with this program, accompanying students, judging auditions, and tending to the organizational aspects of the program. Marilyn’s advocacy for the arts has extended to being the Director of the Suzuki Piano Program for NIU’s Community School of the Arts for many years, and taught at several Suzuki Institutes in the United States.  She is a musician in the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra and continues to be a church musician as vocalist and director of a handbell choir.  

These inductees will also be honored and announced at the annual A Note to Remember event on February 13 at Blumen Gardens from 7:00 pm – 11:00 pm. Tickets are $30.00 and are available at the Sycamore High School main office, Northern Rehab Physical Therapy Specialists 3266 Resource Parkway office in DeKalb, Kar Fre Flowers, and Shawn’s Deli, via E-mail at or by calling 815.751.8388. For more information, please visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

SHS Alum Pete Benson Trio Headlines 8th Annual “Note To Remember” Event


On Saturday, February 13, the Sycamore Music Boosters is excited to welcome headliner the PetePete Benson Benson Trio, Mr. Myers Trio led by Todd Donnelly on the Steel Pan Drums, Sycamore High School (SHS) Jazz Ensemble, SHS Jazz Choir, and a SHS String Ensemble as they host its 8th annual night of jazz and classical music entitled “A Note to Remember”. This fundraiser will be held at Blumen Gardens in Sycamore from 7:00pm – 11:00pm. Additionally, four talented musicians will be introduced and honored as our 2016 SHS Music Hall of Fame inductees. An elegant, sweet and savory hors d’oeuvres buffet and coffee bar will be included along with a raffle and silent auction of hundreds of gifts and prizes generously donated by local businesses.

Sycamore High School alumni, Pete Benson, has been one of Chicago’s premiere Hammond B3 jazz organists and in-demand pianists for over 15 years. As a member of the long running Saturday night staple, the Sabertooth Organ Quartet, Pete can be heard weekly at the legendary Green Mill Lounge.  His recent performances with famed Chicago guitarist George Freeman include opening the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2014, performing and recording with drummer Bernard Purdie at the Green Mill and a trip to Poznan, Poland to headline the Made in Chicago Jazz Festival. Pete has been voted one of the top jazz organists for the Down Beat Rising Star Critics Poll four years running. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in classical piano performance from Northeastern Illinois University and a Master’s Degree in Jazz Studies from the DePaul University School of Music.  Pete was honored to be inducted into the Sycamore Music Hall of Fame in 2014 and is proud to be a part of the large music community that Sycamore helps foster. At the Note to Remember event, Pete will lead his piano trio which features two of Chicago’s most respected musicians, bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer George Fludas.

Todd Donnelly is a singer/songwriter that plays steel pans and percussion. He is also the leader and founder of the band Mr. Myers, which he started 35 years ago while studying percussion at Northern Illinois University. Todd performs as a solo artist and with Mr. Myers throughout the Midwest, with Mr Myers Bandoccasional adventures in other exotic locales such as Las Vegas and the Caribbean. Mr. Myers plays “Caribbean Rock”- a mixture of Reggae, Calypso, Jimmy Buffett/Beach music, and their own originals. They have played thousands of shows ranging from Clubs to Festivals, as well as Corpor
ate and private events.

The 2016 Sycamore High School Music Hall of Fame inductees will also be introduced at this event. Two Sycamore High School Alumni have been chosen as Legacy Award recipients and two community members will be receiving the Advocate Award; inductees will be announced soon. A separate induction ceremony including the unveiling of the updated 2016 trophy case is scheduled for February 13 in the Sycamore High School Auditorium at 2:30pm; the public is invited to attend and admission is free to this ceremony.

Sponsors for A Note to Remember currently include Northern Rehab Physical Therapy Specialists, Prairie View Animal Hospital, Dr. Todd Anderson – Oral & Maxillo Facial Surgeons of Northern Illinois, Austin’s Violin Shop, Casey’s, Law office of Riley Oncken, American Midwest Bank, Bryan & Julie Kruskol, InVironments Magazine, LePrint Express, New Values Magazine, Shaw Media – the Daily Chronicle and the Midweek, PianoForte, Jamrah Middle Eastern Cuisine, and Nat’s on Maple. Sponsorship opportunities
are still available; please see our web site to download the sponsor form at

A limited number of tickets are available for this adult-only event at $30.00 per person which includes musical entertainment, hors d’oeuvres, coffee bar, silent auction and raffle.  A cash bar will also be available. Seating opens at 7:00 pm. Tickets are on sale now at the Sycamore High School main office, Northern Rehab Physical Therapy Specialists 3266 Resource Parkway office in DeKalb, Kar Fre Flowers, Shawn’s Coffee Shop, via E-mail at or by calling 815.751.8388. For more information, please visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

  The Sycamore Music Boosters is a group of families and friends of students enrolled in music education classes in Sycamore Schools.  This fundraiser will aid in the purchase of instruments, uniforms, and scholarships for Sycamore’s talented musicians.  



576 - SHS JAzz Band at The House 1-24-16 009-A-croppedThe Sycamore High School Jazz Band Ensemble recently was invited to perform at The House Cafe in DeKalb. Under direction of Scott Mertens, this group played their first gig of the season performing tunes by Tito Puente, Charles Mingus, Glenn Miller’s crowd-pleaser “In The Mood”, and other tunes. Band members include: Saxophones: Ryan Loitz, Morgyn Nelson, Rachel Hecht, Jakob Kelly, Efrain Aguirre; Trumpets: Ben Van Wienen, Andrew Selig, Olivia Lohse, Elliott Marsh, Gabe Frielink, Ebad Rana; Trombones: Ella Rose Atkins, Will Biletzky, Jacob Handel; Piano: Jessica Luoo; Double Bass: Brett Brancato; Drum Kit: Michael Decker, Jordan Smith; and Vocalist Lauren Brazeau.

This talented jazz band will be performing next at the annual A Note To Remember fundraiser hosted by the Sycamore Music Boosters on February 13.  This adult-only event will be held at Blumen Gardens from 7:00 – 11:00 pm. Limited tickets are available for $30.00 per person and may be purchased at the Sycamore High School Main Office, Kar Fre Flowers, Shawn’s Coffee Shop, via email at or by calling 815.751.8388. For more information about A Note To Remember and all music department events, please visit and follow Sycamore Music Boosters on Facebook and Twitter.

Note to Remember Appreciation

The 7th Annual Sycamore Music Boosters “A Note to Remember” event held on February 14 at Blumen Gardens was a tremendous success!   It is with deep gratitude that we thank our sponsors and donors that helped support our mission: “Enriching the quality of music education, performance and awareness in the Sycamore schools and community.”

Our appreciation is extended to the following Sponsors that helped make this event so successful:   Kohls, Northern Rehab Physical Therapy Specialists, Prairie View Animal Hospital, NB & T, KishHealth System, Ideal Industries, Inc., Shaw Media – the Daily Chronicle and the Midweek, PianoForte and David Graham, Oral and Maxillo Facial Surgeons for Northern Illinois-Dr. Todd Anderson and Dr. David Junck, Floor to Ceiling, Carmine’s Subs, Austin’s Violin Shop, American Midwest Bank, Law Office of Richard L. Turner, Law office of Riley Oncken, Special Needs Products, The Suter Company, Castle Bank, Quinlin and Fabish Music, Spex Express, Bob and Diane Hammon, and Vanatta Piano Service.

Our gratitude is also expressed to the following businesses and community members for their contributions: Jazz in Progress, Blumen Gardens, Wendy Tritt of Trittenhaus Design, Invironments Magazine-Morningstar Media Group, Gia DaVini of Chocolate Shivers, Victoria Shipman of Essentials by House of Interiors, Le Print Express, New Values Magazine, Lion’s Club Community Board, Ralph Helm, all of our outstanding performers, and our wonderful Music Boosters families and friends.

Thank you to the following businesses and families for their donations: Buffalo Wild Wings, Charter Fitness, Chicago Bears, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Chipotle, Cottone Family, Country Inn & Suites, Culver’s of Sycamore, Curves, Dairy Queen, D & D Jewelry, Dolce Vita Salon, Dr. Todd Curtis-Orthodontist, Eggsclusive Café, Elgin Youth Symphony, Energym, Farm and Fleet, Kevin Flaherty, Hillside Restaurant, HyVee, Kishwaukee College, Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra,  Kishwaukee YMCA, Kuiper’s Family Farm, Los Rancheros, Lou Malnati’s, McDonald’s of Sycamore, Midwest Museum of Natural History, Nat’s on Maple, NIU Community School of the Arts, Northern Rehab Physical Therapy Specialists, Panera Bread, Parkway Restaurant,  PJ’s Courthouse Tavern, Polka Dots Bakery, Potbelly’s, Prairie View Animal Hospital, Reclaimed by Jil, Rosita’s Restaurant, Seattle Sutton, Spex Expressions, Sports of All Sorts,  Stagecoach Players, Stephen Alan Salon, St. Mary’s Church Sycamore, Sycamore High School, Sycamore High School Orchestra, Sycamore Park District and Golf Club, Sycamore Sports Boosters, and Thirty-One Brand Gifts – Robyn White.

Please accept our apologies if we mistakenly omitted someone. We extend our sincere gratitude to everyone that assisted in making this “Note to Remember” event a huge success!



Ken Olson, Sycamore Music Booster President

Kris Selig, A Note to Remember Chair