Exceptionally talented music educators and performers Jennifer McCabe and Michael Kasper have been named 2021 Sycamore Music Boosters Hall of Fame members. The announcement of their induction was Saturday during a virtual version of “A Note to Remember,” the annual fundraiser gala.
Pianist, vocal coach, and music director Jennifer McCabe graduated from Sycamore High School in 1990. While in high school, she participated in Marching Band, Concert Band, Pep Band, and Jazz Band. Additionally, she sang in both Concert Choir and with Madrigals. She is a recipient of the John Phillip Sousa Award and the Sycamore Music Boosters Senior Music Award.
McCabe earned her bachelor’s degree in piano from Northern Illinois University in 1995. She pursued graduate studies in music education and performance at both NIU and Middle Tennessee State University. Other areas of expertise have included composition, clarinet, saxophone, singing, steel pan, and percussion.
“The music department was my home” in high school, McCabe told Sycamore music chair Scott Mertens in an interview aired during A Note to Remember. “I was so inspired by my teachers growing up in Sycamore. My music teachers were fabulous. And they were inspiring. And they made music fun. And they helped me to love music, and it made me want to share that, and to continue the traditions of keeping music alive.”
Music “shapes brains in such a positive way,” she said. “It helps the brain grow in a great way … coordination, expression, deep thoughts and analysis, and to be good listeners. And so, it is truly the work of my life to guide my students as best I can … to carry on music in whatever way is going to be important to them, and to perpetuate it into the world.”
McCabe has worked as a pianist, vocal coach and music director, and is active in the musical theater, choral, instrumental, and operatic communities throughout the Chicagoland area. This includes the Chicago High School for the Arts, Sinfonietta Bel Canto, Merit School of Music (Renee Fleming Voice Initiative), Music Institute of Chicago, The Opera Divas, North Shore Opera Hour, Northwestern University, Opera Inter Alia, Actors Training Center, Wheaton College, DePaul University, Loyola University, Temple Beth Israel, Chicago Waldorf School, and Taft & Lincoln Park high schools. She also is a former manager of the non-profit Opera on Tap Chicago.
Currently, McCabe runs the Harmony Piano Studio, where she teaches piano and voice lessons. She also teaches at The Musical Offering, is music director at Edgewater Presbyterian Church, and is a pianist at Temple Beth Israel in Skokie.
Hall of Fame inductee Michael Kasper graduated from Sycamore High School in 2004. During high school, he was part of Concert and Symphonic Bands, Symphony Orchestra, and Marching Band, and he played in the pit for school musicals. He was drum major for Marching Band his senior year. He also was an annual participant in the ILMEA District 8 Festival Band or Orchestra and Suburban Prairie Conference Band. In 2004, he performed with Symphony Orchestra at the Illinois Music Educators Conference.
Michael earned his undergraduate degree in music education from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and his master’s degree in educational administration from Northern Illinois University.
He has been the band teacher at Carpentersville Middle School since 2009. He directs both the 7th and 8th grade concert bands. He also started and currently directs two auditioned jazz bands. During his 11 years at CMS, Kasper has grown the band program from 80 students to over 200. The CMS 8th Grade Band was selected to perform for a demonstration clinic at the 2017 ILMEA Music Educators Conference. In addition to being a member of the National Association for Music Education and the Illinois Music Educators Association, he is part of the Illinois Comprehensive Musicianship through Performance Committee, where he currently serves as President-Elect.
“It’s a privilege to be inducted into the Sycamore Music [Boosters] Hall of Fame,” Kasper told Mertens. “One thing I was very lucky about was the opportunities that we had in Sycamore.”
Kasper said his education and performance involvement have shaped him as a teacher and credited his teachers with being great role models. “Teaching is always going to be a challenge, no matter where you are in your career. It’s rewarding to continue to add to the program at Sycamore,” he said. “We are by nature musical creatures. Part of our language is using music, and the more you understand our language of music, the better you’ll be able to understand and express yourself.”
In 2018, Kasper was a recipient of the Elgin Youth Symphony Educator of the Year award. He teaches private French horn lessons in the DeKalb and Sycamore area.
Most recently, he was a Quarterfinalist for the prestigious 2020 Grammy Music Educator of the Year Award.
Kasper and McCabe will be memorialized in the music display case at Sycamore High School, and online at the music boosters website. Both are Hall of Fame Legacy Award recipients. The Legacy Award is one of four Hall of Fame induction categories.
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.
About Sycamore Boosters
Sycamore Music Boosters supports all students in grades K-12 in music programs offered within Sycamore Community School District 427. The board of directors is a volunteer group of parents and community members. Board meetings are open to the public. For more information, please visit www.sycamoremusicboosters.com and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Our email address is SycamoreMusicBoosters@gmail.com.