An exceptionally committed local business owner, a consummate communicator who elevated awareness of Sycamore music to the Next Level, and a legendary conductor whose work resonates decades later are the Sycamore Music Boosters 2022 Hall of Fame inductees.
The Music Boosters formally inducted Steven Griglione, Deb Loitz, and Arthur D. Montzka into its Hall of Fame at a ceremony Thursday at Sycamore High School.
After welcoming remarks by Boosters president Jenelle Robers, Scott Mertens, Sycamore music department chair, noted that “all three of our honorees are staunch advocates for music education in their own way.”
Griglione, Loitz and Montzka are Advocate Award inductees. Advocate is one of four categories by which an individual can qualify for Hall of Fame induction.
Anyone who visited downtown Sycamore from the late 1970s until well into the 21st century passed near a much beloved business where young musicians found or improved upon their musical talents.
That business was Mr. G’s Music Studio, owned and operated by 2022 inductee Steven “Mr. G.” Griglione. Mr. G’s opened in 1977 and operated for over 40 years. In fact, in paying tribute to Griglione on Thursday, Mertens noted that he (Mertens) worked for Griglione early in his musical career.
“That was when I had hair,” Mertens joked.
Griglione was a 1968 graduate of Sycamore High School. He later earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northern Illinois University.
As both a business owner and mentor, he served the community for 43 years of outstanding music mentoring and education. He played the organ for various Sycamore High School sporting events, and participated in countless musical activities, groups and events throughout the community.
“For 43 years, he was a force for music education in this community,” Mertens said. “The only reason I left there [working for Griglione] is that Sycamore hired me.”
Griglione, a posthumous inductee, died in late 2020. Even after his passing, Griglione’s estate donated money to the Sycamore Music Boosters and music equipment from his former store to the Sycamore music department.
And just this week, the Griglione family announced a new scholarship honoring him. Information about the Steven “Mr. G.” Scholarship Fund is available at the DeKalb County Community Foundation website
Those familiar with nonprofit organizations would agree that effective communication between and among stakeholders is critical to the organization’s success.
And Deb Loitz’s work to get the good word out about music education came at a critical time when “Facebook” and “website” were words of wonderment.
While with the Sycamore Music Boosters, Loitz served as publicist and program coordinator. In that role, she created and launched the organization’s social media platforms, and revamped and managed its website. She also was responsible for news releases, graphic design and media relations.
“Deb’s passion for music education really runs deep,” Mertens said. “She really understood what music education could do for kids.”
School administrators pointedly noted that Sycamore music programs “needed to do a better job of tooting our own horn, so to speak,” Mertens said. “We [the music department] were really struggling to keep up with the PR demands, and Deb really stepped up to help us.”
Loitz, who is currently marketing director at Northern Rehab Physical Therapy Specialists, has a long history of service to music in the community.
Her background includes serving as current Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra music education outreach chair; and previous roles as general manager, publicist, program coordinator, music librarian, advertising, and personnel.
Loitz is youth handbell choir director and adult handbell choir member at Sycamore United Methodist Church, and served as secretary and board member in the DeKalb Area Arts Council.
Arthur D. Montzka
In recognizing Montzka’s contributions, Ken Tonaki, Sycamore orchestra teacher, explained the ripple effect between Montzka’s work and Sycamore’s status as one of the top orchestra programs in Illinois.
“I can draw direct lineages for what we’re doing today back to Art,” Tonaki said. “When I came to Sycamore as a teacher, we [the orchestra program] had, like, 8 kids. Now, we’re in the 60s.”
Montzka’s musical pedigree is profoundly impressive. He held degrees from George Washington University, Oberlin Conservatory, and the Eastman School of Music. He also served in the U.S. Army as a member of the 7th Army Symphony Orchestra.
He was a member of the Illinois Arts Council Advisory panel, board member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, and a lifetime member of the American String Teachers Association. He served as the first official conductor for the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra and conducted for 23 seasons.
In 1994, he was honored as the Suzuki Chairholder by the American Suzuki Institute and received the Distinguished Service Award from the Suzuki Association of the Americas. In 1996, he was honored with the Distinguished Service Award by the Illinois American String Teachers Association.
He was official photographer for the Suzuki Association of the Americas, and taught orchestra in DeKalb. He was a major supporter of the Sycamore/NIU Suzuki Program, helped re-establish the Sycamore orchestra program, was organist for the Sycamore Federated Church, and established the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition since its inception in 1985. He also taught private violin and viola lessons for many years.
“Who has produced more of an impact in the orchestral world than Art Montzka?” Tonaki said.
Montzka, a posthumous inductee, died in late 2002.
About the Sycamore Boosters Hall of Fame
There are four categories of Hall of Fame inductees, each of which recognizes ways in which Sycamore High School alumni and community members have contributed to excellence in music programs. The categories are:
Ovation Award: Given to an SHS graduate who demonstrated superior performance and participation in music throughout high school.
Legacy Award: Given to an SHS graduate who demonstrated superior performance and participation in music throughout high school, and who has continued to demonstrate superior involvement in music through continued education, professional, and volunteer involvement in music.
Advocate Award: Given to an individual who has outstanding qualities as an advocate for music programs in the Sycamore Community School District 427.
Distinguished Alumni Award: Given to an SHS graduate who demonstrated superior participation in music throughout high school. Beyond high school, the individual must have a record of distinguished and exceptional performance/service/achievement in their vocation and/or avocation outside of music.