Council approves new band director

May 21, 2019 GMT

DIXON – The Dixon Municipal Band is kicking off its season with a new director.

The City Council signed off on appointing Jon James, who was the conductor for the Sterling Municipal Band for 15 years, to the position Monday.

James was recently chosen by a hiring committee of longtime Dixon band members Ruth Johnson, Donald Burnett and Paul Whitcombe to replace Director Mark Dempsey, who took the job about a year ago but resigned for personal reasons in March.

Mayor Li Arellano Jr. said James stood out because of his extensive experience, leadership and mentorship for current and future band members.


James has 26 years of band experience teaching and conducting. He graduated from Western Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in music and began teaching music in the Polo School District in 1992.

The band will perform Sunday for the city’s annual Memorial Day Parade, and its summer concert series is scheduled to span 10 shows from June 13 to Aug. 11.

The city has tightened the band budget for the last few years, and the organization has upped its efforts with fundraising campaigns.

James and his wife Cathy, who is the longtime Dixon band manager and former Sterling band travel manager, were fired by the Sterling Municipal Band Commission in a controversial decision in September.

Cathy, a clarinetist, started playing with the Dixon band in 1974 and the Sterling band in 1986. Jon had been the Sterling band’s first-chair trumpet players for 10 years prior to being named conductor, and also was a performer in the Dixon band.