DeKalb High School string quartet to perform with Billy Joel tribute show

Performance set for May 11 at Egyptian Theatre in downtown DeKalb

Members of the DeKalb High School Black Box Quartet (from leftKeira Specht on the violin, Maggie Martin on the violin, Jonathan Chapen on the viola and Christopher Thunder on the cello will join a Billy Joel Tribute show on May 11, 2024, at the Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb.

DeKALB – Members of the DeKalb High School’s Black Box Quartet will perform in May with a nationally touring Billy Joel tribute band, the Bill Nation Show, at the Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb, according to a news release.

The concert, set for 8 p.m. May 11 and the theater, 135 N. Second St., will include Billy Joel classics from the 1970s through the 1990s.

Tickets are $35 to $65, plus fees, and may be bought by phone at 815-758-1225, at the box office, or online at The show is appropriate for all ages.

DeKalb High School seniors Keira Specht and Jonathan Chapen and juniors Maggie Martin and Christopher Thunder will join the band for the songs “Vienna,” “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” “Just the Way You Are” and “New York State of Mind,” according to the release.

Members also belong to prestigious area ensembles, including the Rockford Symphony Youth Orchestra and the Northern Illinois University Orchestra.

The producers of Billy Nation approached DeKalb High School orchestra director Sheila Felder looking to collaborate. Show producers often reach out to local high school orchestras, making donations to their school music programs in exchange for student participation, according to the release.

About the performers

Keira Specht, 17, is a senior and has been playing the violin for eight years, according to the release. She started taking lessons at age 9. Specht also performs with the Rockford Symphony Youth Orchestra and the NIU Orchestra.

“I love playing in orchestra. It’s a different way of expressing yourself. You don’t have to use words,” Specht said in the release. “I just connect with it in a different way than everything else I’ve been exposed to. I really appreciate the collaboration. It’s so much fun and special.”

After high school, Specht plans to continue to pursue her studies in music performance.

Maggie Martin, 16, is a junior and has been playing the violin for six years, starting in elementary school. Martin also performs with NIU’s Sinfonia.

“I’m an athlete, but music is this other side of me where I can express myself and let out my emotions by channeling it through the violin,” Martin said in the release.

After high school, Martin plans to attend college to pursue a degree in engineering while continuing to play the violin.

Jonathan Chapen, 17, is a senior and has been playing the viola for seven years. He was encouraged to play music at an early age.

Chapen also performs with the Greater Rockford Barbershop Chorus.

“One of my favorite things about playing the viola is being a support role. I get nervous onstage, but I really enjoy playing an instrument that supports the other instruments,” Chapen said in the release. “Being onstage is exciting because it feels like all the preparation I’ve done is going toward something.”

After high school, Chapen plans to take a semester off before college. He plans to double major in computer science and music performance.

Christopher Thunder, 16, is a junior and has been playing the cello for six years. Encouraged by his mother, who teaches cello, Thunder became interested in the instrument in fifth grade. Thunder also performed with the pit orchestra for the school production of “Beauty and the Beast.”

Thunder enjoys the wide range of tones he can perform with the cello.

“The cello has a great low voice while also having a nice upper range without sounding too high,” he said in the release. “I really like the range.”

After high school, Thunder hopes to continue his studies in music and perform with a local orchestra.

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