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Midwest Mardi Gras returns!

The Sycamore Music Boosters is pleased to announce the social event of the season is set for Feb. 8 and will be a fabulous evening of great music, Mardi Gras-themed culinary delights, silent auction, raffles, and more.

And, it’s all for a great cause.

The event – “A Note to Remember” – is 7-11 p.m. Sat., Feb. 8 at Blumen Gardens, 403 Edward St., in Sycamore. Proceeds benefit Sycamore music programs.

Pre-event tickets for this adult-only event are $30 each and are available at the Sycamore High School main office, 427 Spartan Trail, Northern Rehab Physical Therapy Specialists DeKalb office, 3266 Sycamore Road, Kar-Fre Flowers and Gifts, 1126 E. State St., and Shawn’s Coffee Shop, 204 Somonauk St. Tickets are also available via email to or by contacting Clare Dempsey at 815-751-8388 (cash or check only, please).

Attendees are encouraged to purchase tickets early. If the event doesn’t sell out, tickets will also be available at the door. Mardi Gras attire is encouraged.

More information is available at

Debbie Baugus, event chair and Boosters treasurer, said planners have been working diligently to make the 12th installment of the fundraiser spicy and fun. “Last year’s Mardi Gras theme was so popular that it was an easy decision to continue the theme for 2020,” Baugus said. “We’re doubling down on 2019’s most popular food, and as always, we’ll have great music, a cash bar, silent auction and raffles. A Note to Remember will definitely be a night to remember.”

The Music

Headlining A Note to Remember 2020 is the Rodrigo Villanueva Chicago Jazz Trio. Besides Villanueva, the trio features pianist Tommy Muellner and bassist Kelly Sill.

Rodrigo Villanueva Chicago Jazz Trio (1)

Drummer, composer, producer and director Rodrigo Villanueva is a professor of Jazz Studies at Northern Illinois University, where he teaches jazz drumset, jazz arranging, and directs the NIU Jazz Ensemble. Villanueva performs regularly with his jazz trio and quartet, the Eddie Gomez Trio, the NIU Jazz Faculty Group Nucleus, Dan Moore Jazz Trio, Daniel Wong Trio, and Anders Svanoe Trio. He also teaches at Birch Creek Percussion and Steel Pan Summer Program.

He has played and recorded with several jazz, classical and pop artists from Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and the U.S. Among them are Stefan Karlsson, Lynn Seaton, Eddie Gomez, Fareed Haque, Ed Saindon, Ben Sidran, Liam Teague, Rodolfo Sanchez, Lee Tomboulian, Hiro Morozumi, Jangeun Bae, Carlos Guedes, Takayoshi Yoshioka, Jon Anderson, Carlos Prieto, Roberto Limón, Sandra Kaye, Carla White, Tony Monaco, Reggie Thomas, Craig Butterfield, Anders Svanoe, Alex Mercado and Latin Pop singers: Lucero, Shaila Durcal and Alejandro Fernandez.

Villanueva has taught at postsecondary institutions in Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Korea, Singapore, Japan and the U.S. He has been featured at many international jazz festivals and conferences, including International Association for Jazz Education, Jazz Education Network, Percussive Arts Society International Convention and the International Band and Orchestra Midwest Clinic. He also has published several original compositions for large jazz ensembles.

In 2010, he launched his own record label, Jazzling Records. His first production was the Eddie Gomez Trio album “Live in Mexico City” with the legendary Eddie Gomez on bass, Swedish pianist Stefan Karlsson and Villanueva on drums.

Bassist Kelly Sill is also a composer, teacher, and producer. He has worked for over 35 years in the Chicago area as a house bassist for Rick’s Cafe Americain, George’s, The Jazz Showcase, Pop’s, Andy’s, and the Green Mill. Some of his concert venues include the Chicago Jazz Festival, Ravinia, the Red Sea Jazz Festival, the Elkhart Jazz Festival, Orchestra Hall (Symphony Center) in Chicago, and the Thessaloniki Concert Hall in Greece.

Sill has performed with Hank Jones, Woody Shaw, Dave Liebman, Eddie Jefferson, Snooky Young, Cedar Walton, Red Rodney, Eddie Harris, Johnny Hartman, Tommy Flanagan, Joe Henderson, Clark Terry, Barry Harris, Donald Byrd, Freddie Hubbard, Herb Ellis, Bobby Watson, Jackie McLean, Bobby Hutcherson, Kenny Burrell, and Chris Potter, among many others.

Pianist Tommy Muellner is a respected Chicagoland performer and composer. He teaches jazz theory and harmony privately on a limited basis. His style includes a focus on harmonic movement, improvisation and musical interplay. He freelances with many top musicians and often plays piano for private occasions. Jazz critic and writer Neil Tesser calls Muellner a “pianist and tunesmith of stellar magnitude.”

Meanwhile, Hammond organ jazz master Joey DeFrancesco said Muellner “swings, grooves, is soulful, and in total command of his instrument, plus I love him, he’s one of my favorites!”

Muellner has worked with many jazz musicians, including Ira Sullivan, Eddie Daniels, Marvin Stamm, Bobby Ojeda, John Fedchock, Warren Kime, Mark Colby, Richie Cole, Von Freeman, Ron Dewar, Michael S. Smith, Isaac Redd Holt, Donny Osborne and Barrett Deems. He also has worked with vocalists, including Arlene Bardelle, Hinda Hoffman, Spider Saloff and Catherine Whitney.

Besides the Rodrigo Villanueva Chicago Jazz Trio, Jazz in Progress is slated to perform. The evening will also feature Sycamore High School’s own Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Choir, and String Quartet.

The Culinary Delights

Lively food will accompany lively music. In 2019, chef and Sycamore Music Boosters member Jeff Hecht spent months refining recipes that capture the flavor of New Orleans but are calibrated for Midwesterners. His research generated such rave reviews that the Boosters decided to bring back a Mardi Gras theme for 2020 and offer many of the same dishes.

Come hungry and sample a variety of dishes and desserts. Coffee and a cash bar will also be available.

Getting in on the Act

A Note to Remember is the perfect way for Sycamore-area organizations to gain visibility while contributing to a great cause. The Sycamore Music Boosters offers sponsorships of A Note to Remember at four levels:

  1. Vivace Level ($1,000 and above). Vivace sponsorships include two tickets to the event, a full-page ad in the program, and mention/links in social media posts.

  2. Presto Level ($500-$999). Presto sponsorships include two tickets to the event, a 1/2-page ad in the program, and mention/links in social media posts.

  3. Allegro Level ($250-$499). Allegro sponsorships include two tickets to the event, a 1/4-page ad in the program, and mention/links in social media posts.

Please contact Baugus at for more information on sponsorships. As of early January, sponsors for A Note to Remember 2020 are:

Vivace Level

Presto Level

Allegro Level

Andante Level

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