Sycamore High School orchestra wins state competition

SYCAMORE – Sycamore High School’s orchestra program has captured top honors – by a comfortable margin – at the annual Illinois High School Association solo and ensemble competition.

The orchestra program topped second-place Chicago High School for the Arts and third-place Chicago Northside. SHS earned 174 points, compared with 150 and 120 for the Chicago schools.

Meanwhile, the school’s band and vocal programs each tied for seventh place, according to IHSA rankings. Sycamore’s music program is in the IHSA Class A division. Class A programs are the second largest in Illinois, with school districts having between 555 and 1,254 students.

As with so many other programs, the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on this year’s IHSA competition. Due to health and safety concerns, schools of all sizes had to surmount technical and logistical hurdles to record performances and submit them electronically for judging.

“We’re incredibly proud of our students and faculty who work so hard, under adverse circumstances, to do so well,” Scott Mertens, Sycamore music department chair said in a news release. “Our success this year is the result of persistence, practice and dedication. It’s also the result of a community, a school district, and a parent organization that tirelessly support us.”

Mertens said Sycamore music programs – from elementary through high school – are regarded as among the best in Illinois.

“I am so proud of all of our students and our teachers who help students further their love of music and help them achieve their best effort under very challenging circumstances,” Superintendent Steve Wilder said in the release. “You’re doing great things, which in turn makes it possible for our students to do great things.”

Ken Tonaki, SHS orchestra director, said the accolades reflect persistence.

“Regardless of the musical discipline – band, choir, orchestra – success at this level begins in grade school,” he said in the release. “Persistence and commitment through classes, rehearsals, camps, clinics and practice … and then more practice … got us here, and I couldn’t be prouder of our students.”