The Sycamore Community School District #427 Orchestras recently attended the prestigious International Midwest Clinic held at McCormick Place in Chicago. With over 17,000 attendees from all 50 states and over 30 countries, the Midwest Clinic International Band and Orchestra Music Conference offers one of the largest annual gatherings for musicians and music educators to attend clinics, exhibits, rehearsal labs, and various concerts.

The Sycamore High School Orchestra was invited to be the Demonstration Orchestra at the Bowing Concepts for Musical Phrasing seminar led by clinician Frank Lestina. Select High School Orchestra students participated in the clinic. The Sycamore Middle School Orchestra was invited to be the Demonstration Orchestra for the Middle School Rehearsal Lab Clinic, directed by composer Jeremy Woolstenhulme. Select middle school students auditioned to be a part of this group. “Our participation in this international clinic is a once in a lifetime event. This is the Olympics of the band and orchestra world. We are very excited and honored to be a part of this prestigious festival” comments Sycamore Middle School Orchestra teacher Amy Tonaki. Congratulations to all the musicians selected to participate in this experience!

High School Orchestra Director Ken Tonaki adds, “We are so thankful for this opportunity. This experience was made possible by Sycamore Music Boosters; they graciously provided funding for our students to attend this festival. We extend our unending gratitude to the Music Boosters for their on-going support for our students to have this experience!”

The Sycamore Music Boosters support all students in grades K-12 in various music programs offered within the district. For more information about the Music Boosters, please visit our website at: , contact Sycamore Music Boosters President Lisa Smith at, and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  

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Forty high school and forty-eight middle school students from the Sycamore Community School District #427 were recently selected to participate in the 2016 Illinois Music Educators Association (ILMEA) All-District Orchestras, Bands, Jazz Bands, and Choirs.  Students who made All-District groups performed audition material for judges in competitive auditions in October.  The students who were selected spend one day in rehearsal, and the groups perform later the same day. The All-District Jazz Festival was held on November 12 at Rochelle Township High School.  The All-District Band, Orchestra, and Choir Festivals were held on Saturday, November 19 at DeKalb High School.

Students from Sycamore High School who have been selected for the ILMEA All-District festivals include:


Soprano – Kaitlin Jacobson, Emily Keiner, Alice Mesjak; Alto – Kelsie Kruskol, Anna McComb; Tenor – John Lerohl, Trevor McDonald.

HIGH SCHOOL CHOIR (Freshmen participating in Junior Festival):

Soprano – Clara Biletzky, Tessa Harbecke; Alto – Caitlin Horton, Corinn Schusteff; Baritone – Jacob Jovanovich.


Violin – Ellie Bowers, Ben Briscoe, Kaylie Emmer, Julia Luo, Madeline McCormick; Viola – Kelsey Mulligan, Ryan Piloni; Cello – Kjelden Breidenbach, Grace Frielink; Bass – Eli Briscoe, Brett Brancato, Evan Jacobs.


Oboe – Mary McConnaughay, Matthew Rogers; French Horn – Bret Reser.


Oboe – Tommy Kloosterman; Alto Saxophone – Ryan Loitz, Gracia Watson; Baritone Sax – Jakob Kelly; Trumpet – Gabe Frielink, Elliott Marsh; French Horn – Kim Hohlfeld; Trombone – Will Biletzky, Brett Harris; Baritone – Madeline Kessler.


Alto Sax – Gracia Watson; Baritone Sax – Jakob Kelly; Trombone – Will Biletzky.

Students from Sycamore Middle School who have been selected for ILMEA All-District festivals include:


Flute – Sarah Brazier; Oboe – Kellie Hohlfeld, Jake Rundle; Clarinet – Chloe Harbecke, Catie Haub, Lorin Kmieciak, Adam Zeller; Trumpet – Tryggve Vilaseca; French Horn – Aidan Dempsey; Trombone – Karl Peterson; Percussion – Nicholas Cyr, John Kloosterman.


Tenor Saxophone – Allison Troy; Trombone – Karl Peterson, Jaxon Lang; Guitar – Jeremy Peterson.


Sopranos – Kaitlyn Bowman, Madelyn Greenwald, Melissa Lerohl, Charlotte Sharp, Vani Subramony, Jill Thomas, Lynsey Villarreal, Kylie Von Schnase; Altos – Hannah Frielink, Megan McConnaughay, Ryan Russo; Baritone – Jeremy Peterson.


Violin – Maxim Breidenbach, Sofi Briscoe, Emma Fredericks, Rebekah Nielsen, McKenna Nonnenmann, Ava Peterson, Emily Prebil, Sarah Siddiqui, Aidan Stanik, Erin Templin, Ritta Wi; Viola – Lily Baker, Jules Breidenbach, Rebeca DasNeves, Lili Walker; Cello – Ethan Bode, Avery DeRuyter, Austin Gerdes, Natalie Hulseberg, Luke Templin.

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

Sycamore High School Music Department Receives 5th Place and SHS Orchestra Places 3rd in State!

The Sycamore High School Music Department was recently awarded 5th Place in the 2015-2016 Illinois High School Association (IHSA) State ranking!  The Sycamore High School Orchestra also placed 3rd overall in State for Class A ranking. This is the sixth straight year that the Sycamore High School Music Department has placed in the top five in Class A, and it is their eleventh straight top-ten finish (and their 13th in the past 14 years).

This honor is the result of the combined effort from the band, choir and orchestra programs and their participation in the Solo/Ensemble Contest along with the Organizational Contest. The IHSA Solo/Ensemble Festival was hosted by Harvard High School, where band, choir, and orchestra students performed as soloists and in small groups.  The IHSA Organizational Festival was held at Belvidere North High School in April.  At this festival, larger ensembles such as orchestras, bands, jazz bands, choirs, and jazz choirs all performed for ratings. The Sycamore High School Symphonic Band, Chamber Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, Treble Choir, Chamber Choir, and Jazz Choir all received Division One Outstanding ratings, and the Concert Band and Concert Orchestra received Division Two Excellent ratings. The scores from both of these festivals are tabulated by IHSA, and this result was strong enough to earn 5th Place in State!

Music Department Chair Scott Mertens comments, “Our music students should take pride in this award, as their individual and small group performances are a key reason that our school placed as highly as we did.  These music students are demonstrating a culture of accountability that reflects very positively upon Sycamore High School, and our community can be very proud of these talented young men and women.”

The high school bands are led by Ken Goodman, the orchestras are led by Ken Tonaki, the choral groups are led by Drayton Eggleson, and the entire Music Department is chaired by Scott Mertens. This honor stems from the strong effort that our students put into preparing for their performances including rehearsing before and after school, practicing at home day after day, and perfecting their pieces in preparation of their many performances throughout the year. This recognition is a visible means of representing this hard work and dedication.  Congratulations to our students on this notable achievement!

The SHS Music Department has additional support from the Sycamore Music Boosters, a non-profit volunteer organization that supports all students in grades K-12. The Sycamore Music Boosters meet the third Thursday of each month in the Sycamore High School Library at 6:00 pm. Parents and friends of Sycamore District music students are invited to attend meetings to find out about exciting fundraising events, and music program activities.  For more information, please contact Scott Mertens, Sycamore Music Department Chair, at, or Lisa Smith, Sycamore Music Boosters President, at  Additional information about the Sycamore Music Boosters may be found at

Sycamore High School 2016 Concerto Competition Winners

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The Sycamore High School Music Department is proud to announce the 2016 Concerto Competition Winners: Mary Flaherty, Jessica Luo, Kailey Mulligan, and Emma Olson. Each year, high schoolseniors are encouraged to apply vi
a audition for the competition, and these talented performers were selected from numerous senior applicants this year. Each winner had the pleasure of performing their solo piece accompanied by their peers with the SHS Symphony Orchestra.

Emma Olson, on Oboe, performed Johann Hummel’s Theme & Variations. She was selected to participate at the ILMEA District Festival all four years in high school and was a member of the All-State Band (the highest level at the ILMEA Conference) her Junior, and Senior year, and in the ILMEA Honors Band sat 3rd chair in 2015 and 4th chair in 2016 respectively. She sat Principal chair in the ILMEA Orchestra for her Sophomore, Junior and Senior years. She was awarded Best of Day for her Solo & Ensemble performance in 2015. She was also a member of the NIU CSA Sinfonia, the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra, and the Earl Clemens Wind Quintet. This fall, Emma will be studying at the University of Illinois-Champaign Urbana, majoring in Music.

Kailey Mulligan, on Viola, performed William Walton’s Concerto for Viola.  Kailey was selected to participate all four years of high school at the annual ILMEA District Festival and was the Principal Viola Chair her Junior and Senior years. She advanced to the ILMEA All-State Festival performing in the All-State Orchestra Sophomore year and in the All-State Honors Orchestra her Junior and Senior years. Other musical activities Kailey participated in include playing in the Pit Orchestra for various musicals, attending summer music camps, and performing with the NIU CSA Sinfonia, Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and Midwest Young Artists Conservatory’s Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Ensembles. She is also the 2016 recipient of the Bette J. Lundbeck Memorial Music Scholarship. Kailey will be attending Wheaton College as an Elementary Education major.

Vocalist Mary Flaherty performed Handel’s Va Godendo from Xerxes and Puccini’s O mio babbino caro from the opera Gianni Schicchi.  Mary participated in Madrigals and Jazz Choir during high school, was an ILMEA District Choir participant her Sophomore, Junior and Senior years and attended ILMEA All-State in the Honors Choir her Senior year. She was also selected for the Northern Illinois Big 12 Choir Festival all four years in school. Mary received the Best of Day award for her vocal solo at this year’s Solo & Ensemble competition. In the summer of 2014, she placed First in her division at the Grandquist Music Festival. Mary also received the National School Choral Award in 2016 and was selected as a soloist in the District 8 concerts. Mary will be attending Luther College majoring in Music.

Jessica Luo, on Violin, performed Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso by Camille Saint-Saens.  Jessica, Concertmaster of the SHS Symphonic Orchestra, participated in the ILMEA District Festivals since 6th grade and earned her way to the ILMEA All-State Conference her Sophomore, Junior and Senior years of high school. She has served as Concertmaster at the most recent District Festivals and has earned “Outstanding” or Division I ratings in annual Solo & Ensemble and local competitions since she was 7 or 8 years old. She not only is a talented violinist, but also is an accomplished pianist, vocalist, and arranger of music. In her Senior year, Jessica played in four orchestras, sang in two choirs, and played piano in the SHS Jazz Ensemble. She also accompanied several of Sycamore’s very talented musicians for Solo & Ensemble and arranged several songs for the SHS Choir. Jessica will be attending the University of Illinois-Champaign Urbana, majoring in Math and Computer Science, and may double major or minor in Music Technology.

Congratulations to the 2016 Sycamore High School Orchestra Concerto Competition Winners and for sharing your talent and impressive performances with fellow students and the community!



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.