Announcing 2017 SHS Music Hall of Fame Inductees

The Sycamore Music Boosters are excited to announce the 2017 SHS Music Hall of Fame Inductees!

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 2017 Sycamore High School Music Hall of Fame inductees include Craig and Joyce Mathey, and Sara (Englum) Velarde.

In its fifth year, the Sycamore Music Boosters will host an official ceremony to induct the 2017 Music Hall of Fame honorees on Saturday, February 11, 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 2017 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.

Craig Mathey, Advocate Award recipient, graduated from Sycamore High School in 1972.  Craig’s musical career began in 5th grade when his parents encouraged him to try a musical instrument; he chose the accordion. During his first year of lessons, Craig discovered that he had a natural talent and ear for music. Craig’s break-out performance took place his senior year, on the SHS stage during the AFS Review Variety Show. From that moment on, Craig was hooked on performing.  He realized that he had a natural ability to also play the keyboards, and since then, he has enjoyed performing with many musical groups.  Additionally, throughout the years, he has collaborated with other talented musicians throughout the area. In 2002, after 32 years, Craig retired from being a union brick mason to work at the former National Bank & Trust Company of Sycamore.  In 2016, Craig retired from NB&T and now has the time and opportunity to perform music more regularly.  Craig can be found performing at local establishments, special events and fundraisers.


Craig & Joyce Mathey

Joyce Mathey, Advocate Award recipient, first found her love and inspiration for music from her mother when she purchased her first piano.  It came from the Wurlitzer piano factory in DeKalb, IL, where Joyce’s mother worked during the WWII era while her father was in the U.S. Marine Corps. Joyce and Craig were married in 1979 and raised their family in Sycamore.  Joyce and Craig became active members of the Sycamore Music Boosters in 1991.  In 1996, Joyce became the President of the organization, ultimately serving as president for 5 years. One of Joyce’s proudest accomplishments during her tenure as Music Boosters President was being a part of a community that valued and fought to keep music education in the schools.   During the early 1980’s, the Sycamore School District was short on funds and planned to cut the music programs in the schools. The Music Boosters program was instrumental in organizing and encouraging the Sycamore School Board to retain music education in all the Sycamore schools. This effort continued on the musical dream and aided in cultivating Sycamore school’s thriving and award-winning music program that benefits many, many students and families in the community today. Harmonizing with her ambition to give back to the community, Joyce is the Executive Director of Pay-It-Forward House in Sycamore.  Her love and appreciation of music carries on with her role as her husband’s musical career manager.

Together, Craig and Joyce Mathey have both been musical advocates their whole lives. As Sycamore Music Booster parents, Craig and Joyce made sure that the students and teachers had all the tools they needed to help support the music program. Through these efforts, the Mathey’s planted the seeds to see the program grow in the years since then.


Sara (Englum) Velarde

Sara (Englum) Velarde, Ovation Award recipient, graduated from Sycamore High School in 2000.  She began playing piano in 4th grade and percussion in 5th grade. Throughout high school, Sara maintained an active schedule as a percussionist and pianist, playing in the high school Orchestra, Symphonic Band, Marching Band, and Pep Band, with the distinction of being percussion section leader for both junior and senior years.  Sara also played percussion in the pit orchestra for the high school musicals, and drum set for the high school Jazz Band. She was selected for the ILMEA District Honor Band her sophomore, junior and senior years, as well as the All-State Band and ILMEA District Orchestra in her senior year.  She actively participated in the Suburban Prairie Conference Honors Band and the CSA Sinfonia at NIU. Sara earned the Don Smith Band Camp Scholarship award and attended the University of Illinois Summer Youth Band Camp, and was awarded the Young Artist Recognition Award by the Sycamore Arts Council. During college, Sara played percussion with the University of Illinois Concert and Symphonic Bands. In more recent years, she has sung with the Holy Name Cathedral Choir in Chicago, and also played timpani for the CSA Sinfonia reunion concert at NIU in 2013. Not only was Sara musically decorated, but also academically acknowledged as shown by the myriad of academic awards, recognitions and scholarships she received as she transitioned from high school and made her way to university.  Sara attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she majored in Human Development and Family Studies, then attended medical school at Rush University in Chicago, followed by a Pediatrics residency at Loyola University Medical Center.  Sara is now a practicing pediatrician at VNA Health Care in Aurora, IL which helps underserved populations in the community.

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

SHS Jazz Ensemble Performs at The House

The Sycamore High School Jazz 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 George and Ira Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Benny Carter and others.


This talented jazz band will be performing next at the annual A Note To Remember fundraiser hosted by the Sycamore Music Boosters on February 11.  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, Northern Rehab Physical Therapy Specialists DeKalb office, Kar Fre Flowers, Shawn’s Coffee Shop, via email at or by calling 815.751.8388. The SHS Jazz Ensemble will also be performing at Jazz at the Egyptian on Sunday, February 26 at 2:00 pm at the Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb.

All-State Send Off Ceremony

The Sycamore Music Department is pleased to congratulate thirteen students that will be attending the prestigious ILMEA All-State Music Conference next week! These students were selected on the basis of their strong auditions and placement in the All-District festivals this fall.

The Sycamore Music Boosters would like to invite you to attend a brief send-off ceremony this Wednesday, January 25, in the High School Choir Room at 3:45 pm.  Students will be introduced, Mr. Mertens will speak briefly, and the Pep Band will play as they depart for the bus.  Everyone is welcome to attend!  Please contact Sycamore Music Boosters President, Lisa Smith, at with further questions.

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

All-State Honors Choir: Trevor McDonald

All-State Choir:  Kelsie Kruskol, Anna McComb, Alice Mesjak

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

All-State Orchestra Winds: Bret Reser, Matthew Rogers

All-State Band: Madeline Kessler, Ryan Loitz, Gracia Watson

SHS had the 17th largest contingent of All-State musicians of all the high schools in the state. We are very proud of all of the musicians who auditioned for these ensembles, and we are happy to have such a strong group to represent Sycamore. Way to go!

The All-State Grand Finale Concert will be at the Peoria Civic Center on Saturday, January 28 at 1:00 pm. (Admission required)

The All-State Honors Grand Finale Concert will be at the Peoria Civic Center on Saturday, January 28 at 3:00 pm. (Admission required)

Eric Montzka Trio to Headline 9th Annual A Note to Remember!

On Saturday, February 11, the Sycamore Music Boosters is excited to welcome headliner the Eric Montzka Trio, Craig Mathey, Sycamore High School (SHS) Jazz Ensemble, SHS Jazz Choir, and a SHS String Ensemble as they host their 9th 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, three talented musicians will be introduced and honored as our 2017 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 and Chicagoland percussionist Eric Montzka has worked with a number of fantastic musicians, including John Scofield, Maynard Ferguson, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Karrin Alison, Chris Potter, Dave Douglas, Howard Levy and Von Freeman. He was a member of Patricia Barber’s quartet (1998-2010) and toured more than 25 countries over five continents and appeared on five recordings distributed by the Blue Note record label.


Eric Montzka

Eric holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Percussion Performance from Northern Illinois University. While enrolled at NIU he toured Switzerland for a week with the NIU Jazz Ensemble. He has also maintained an informal private lesson studio until 2013 and taught at Northbrook High School and Chicago’s Merit School of Music. Eric is a 2015 Sycamore Music Hall of Fame Inductee. At the Note to Remember event, Eric will lead his trio which features guitarist John Moulder and Larry Kohut on bass.

Craig Mathey has been a life-long Sycamore resident and a musician since age 10. He began his musical career by taking accordion lessons for one year, and from then on was a self-taught musician.  At the age of 12 he started playing with a gospel group which honed his skills in improvising and ear training. At age 14 he taught himself to play the piano and electronic keyboards, and at age 18 joined a pop/country/wedding band call the Dick Sargent Review, performing with them until his mid-20s. Next, Craig formed a duo, with John Huber that performed throughout the area for over 8 years.  In early 2003, Craig launched his lounge-lizard/soloist career, performing dinner and cocktail music.  Currently, Craig can be found performing all your favorite styles of music on the piano and singing – pop, country, jazz, blues, and standards on weekends with a variety of other local musicians and at various restaurants and venues in the area.


Craig Mathey

The 2017 Sycamore High School Music Hall of Fame inductees will also be introduced at this event. Two Sycamore community members have been chosen as Advocate Award recipients and one community member will be receiving the Ovation Award; inductees will be announced soon. A separate induction ceremony including the unveiling of the updated 2017 trophy case is scheduled for February 11 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, Law Office of Riley N. Oncken, InVironments Magazine, Shaw Media – the Daily Chronicle and the Midweek, Jamrah Middle Eastern Cuisine. 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, Instagram and Twitter.



Portillo’s Fundraiser

The Sycamore Music Boosters invites the community to Portillo’s in Sycamore for a no-cook dinner fundraiser.

Thursday, January 12, 2017 from 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm.

Stop in and enjoy delicious hot dogs, burgers, salads and shakes while supporting Sycamore Music Boosters! A percentage of sales during this time will go to the Sycamore Music Boosters. Please be sure to show a Portillo’s flyer for proceeds to be applied (just show it on your Smartphone when ordering!)

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.



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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