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.  


Sycamore Music Boosters Announce Sycamore High School 2015 Music Hall of Fame Inductees

Paul Marchese ProKarl Montzka #2Eric Montzka Drums

The 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 2015 Sycamore High School Music Hall of Fame inductees include Paul Marchese, Eric Montzka, and Karl Montzka.

In its third year, the Sycamore Music Boosters will host an official ceremony to induct the 2015 Music Hall of Fame honorees on Saturday, February 14, 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 2015 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.

Paul Marchese, Legacy Award recipient, is a 1994 Sycamore High School graduate and vocalist. He was a member of the concert choir, jazz choir, madrigals, and performed in musicals throughout high school.  He participated in solo and ensemble contests, was selected for IMEA All-District Choirs and the IMEA All-State Choir, and was awarded a Sycamore Music Booster Senior Music Scholarship. Paul earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education and Vocal Performance from Carthage College.  He then earned a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Nebraska and was inducted into Pi Kappa Lambda, the national music honors society.  Since earning his degrees, he has taught at all levels of music education, from kindergarten to college level coursework.  He has been active as a Director of Liturgical Music for different churches throughout his career.  Among his many areas of music involvement, he has developed numerous music programs, created men’s and women’s chorales, and has been an adjudicator for numerous solo and ensemble contests and organizational contests in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Eric Montzka, Legacy Award recipient, graduated Sycamore High School in 1985, and participated in the orchestra playing violin; in the concert band and musicals as percussionist; and in the marching band playing snare drum. His senior year he played drum set in the All-District Jazz Band and was awarded the Arion Award for musical achievement. Throughout high school and college he also played percussion in the DeKalb Municipal Band and tympani in the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Eric received a Bachelor’s Degree in Percussion Performance from Northern Illinois University. Then in Chicago, he received the opportunity to work with a number of fantastic musicians including John Scofield, Maynard Ferguson, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Karrin Alison, Chris Potter, Dave Douglas, Howard Levy and Von Freeman.  From 1998-2010 he was a member of Patricia Barber’s quartet, and toured more than 25 countries over five continents and appeared on five recordings distributed by the Blue Note record label.  Eric also maintained an informal private lesson studio until 2013 and taught at Northbrook High School and Chicago’s Merit School of Music.

Karl Montzka, Legacy Award recipient, a 1988 Sycamore High School graduate, played violin in orchestra, French horn in band and orchestra, and piano in the jazz band all four years at Sycamore High School. He was part of the IMEA District and All-State Jazz Band his senior year. Karl played in the pit orchestras for the Sycamore High School, Stagecoach, and DeKalb High School musicals. He attended Northern Illinois University as a Piano Performance major, and was a member of the NIU Jazz Ensemble. He then began working professionally in Chicago as a freelance pianist/keyboardist and educator. He taught jazz piano at Northeastern Illinois University, DePaul Community Music School, Music Institute of Chicago, and New Trier High School. Karl also taught piano improvisation at the Colorado Suzuki Institute. Additionally, he performed “Rhapsody in Blue” with the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra, was the keyboardist for the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and performed with his group, the Karl Montzka Organ Band, at the Chicago Jazz Festival and Iowa City Jazz Festival. Karl also had the honor of playing a USO tour of Afghanistan with Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band, and has played for numerous Broadway shows in Chicago including Lion King, Wicked, Billy Elliot, The Book of Mormon and Sting’s The Last Ship. Most recently, he was keyboardist/associate conductor for Dee Snider’s Rock and Roll Christmas Tale.

These inductees will also be honored and announced at the annual A Note to Remember event on February 14 at Blumen Gardens from 7:00 pm – 11:00 pm. Tickets are $25.00 and are available at the Sycamore High School main office, Northern Rehab Physical Therapy Specialists 3266 Resource Parkway office in DeKalb, Kar Fre Flowers, Riccardi’s, 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.  


IMEA Allstate January 2014

Fifteen Sycamore High School students were selected to participate in the 2014 Illinois Music Education (ILMEA) Conference recently held at the Peoria Civic Center in Peoria, Illinois.  Students were selected via a rigorous audition process from the district IMEA 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. SHS Band Director Ken Goodman 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. Sycamore Music Department Chair 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 prestigious honor of being selected for All-State:

All-State Honors Choir:  Elizabeth Watson (Soprano II), Alex Riley (Tenor I), Nichole Startz (Alto I), Ian Findley (Bass II), Aubry Nelson (Soprano II)

All-State Choir:  Maddie White (Alto II)

All-State Honors Orchestra:  Sarah Grant (Double Bass)

All-State Orchestra:  Becca Vidales (Viola), Trent Englum (Viola), Seth Kates (Double Bass), Baylie Petit (Cello), Jessica Luo (Violin II), Kailey Mulligan (Viola)

All-State Orchestra Winds:  Jordyn Shultz (French Horn)

All-State Band:  Leah Tabone (Alto Saxophone)

During the festival weekend, participants attended numerous rehearsals, attended workshops, panel discussions and master classes, and performed a concert at the Peoria Civic Center.  Two Sycamore District music teachers were invited as guest presenters during the festival. General Music Instructor Kristine Mertens brought a select number of students to be a part of her “Improvisation In The Classroom” presentation, and SHS Band Director Ken Goodman led a panel discussion, “The Road (More or) Less Traveled or Been There, Done That”, geared for young and future band directors that discussed the many directions of a music instructor’s life can take in the field of instrumental music education.