February 8, 2024

Backstage at the Egyptian: SHS Jazz Ensemble director, Scott Mertens

Our Marketing Intern, Pamela, had the chance to talk about Jazz at the Egyptian with Sycamore High School Jazz Ensemble Director, Scott Mertens. Read their conversation below.

PAMELA: What does it mean to you to bring jazz music to the community?
SCOTT: We’re very much looking forward to playing at the Egyptian Theatre. We’re playing
music that is written by those from varying backgrounds, and it reflects the diversity of the
DeKalb/Sycamore area. This is great for our students, who get a cultural experience that takes
them out of their comfort zone.

P: Could you give a quick overview of your program and who can become involved?
S: The Sycamore High School Jazz Ensemble is an extracurricular group that meets
approximately twice weekly. We rehearse from October through April, and we perform for
nursing homes, school concerts, jazz festivals, and other venues as requested or as schedules
allow. The group contains students who play saxophone, trombone, trumpet, piano, bass,
guitar, and drum set. A number of our graduates have gone on to play professionally, and many
are still active playing their instruments beyond college. One of our graduates from a few years
back, Bryan Carter, recently won both a Grammy and a Tony award.


P: What does it mean for you to present your 7th annual event at the Egyptian Theatre?
S: We are just grateful for the opportunity to perform for the larger DeKalb community, and I
am grateful to Professor Reggie Thomas and Alex Nerad for their efforts to make this concert
series a reality. This concert is an absolute highlight of our year, and we are honored to

P: What does it mean to collaborate with other jazz ensembles in the community?
S: It is great for our students to hear our brothers and sisters in jazz. We get to hear our
DeKalb HS peers playing at a high level, we get to witness a nationally renowned collegiate jazz
ensemble, and we see a group of community members who love jazz continuing to play for the
love of the music. It’s an incredibly inspirational night.

P: What projects have your ensemble been working on?
S: We have been preparing for months for this performance and another performance in
Sycamore. Our Sycamore Music Boosters are holding a fundraising gala on Saturday night, so
we have another program of music that we’re preparing for that concert as well. We’re also
planning on performing at a jazz festival in mid-March.


P: What is one thing you would like your kids to take away from your program?
S: I hope our students develop a deep, lasting understanding and appreciation for this
music, and how it continues to positively shape our culture to this day.


P: What should the audience look forward to for this year’s Jazz at the Egyptian?
S: They should look forward to an enjoyable night of music that showcases the healthy
state of jazz in the DeKalb/Sycamore area. NIU is such a beacon for music, and we are
blessed to be in this area where our students and audiences can see and hear this music live.
People should come out and hear these wonderful groups!