Dixon hires new band director

May 18, 2019

DIXON – Sterling’s former band director is moving on to head the Dixon Municipal Band.

Jon James, who was the conductor for the Sterling Municipal Band for 15 years, recently was chosen by a hiring committee of longtime Dixon band members to replace Director Mark Dempsey, who took the job about a year ago but resigned for personal reasons in March.

The City Council will vote on the new appointment Monday; James would start immediately.

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 hiring committee felt Mr. James’s extensive experience would be a great asset,” Mayor Li Arellano Jr. said Friday. “In addition to his leadership, he will provide mentorship for the next generation of band members and leaders.”

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.

The hiring committee was made up of longtime Dixon band members Ruth Johnson, Donald Burnett and Paul Whitcombe.