Special band meeting draws a crowd

September 26, 2018

STERLING – On the heels of the controversial firing of its band director and travel manager, the city’s Municipal Band Commission called a special meeting to plan for the future.

The meeting was called primarily to formulate a plan for finding an interim director as soon as possible to replace Jon James, who was dismissed Sept. 10 by the five-person commission. Cathy James, Jon’s wife, also was terminated as travel manager during the same meeting. Both were banned from playing in the band for 1 year.

The meeting, however, filled council chambers with supporters of both the Jameses and the commission, demonstrating how deep the rift had become.

The commission said a leadership change was needed to carry out the city’s four-point plan for the band.

Commission Chairman Gonzalo Reyes opened the meeting by reading a statement from Mayor Skip Lee, which emphasized the plan.

“Our four tasks were to be a proactive commission, assess our goals and plan for the future of the band, get its financial house in order, and implement the changes needed to achieve the other three goals,” Reyes said.

The plan has been a contentious issue, largely because the Jameses say it wasn’t shared with them.

“I only became aware of this plan through an email that was sent to me a few days ago,” Cathy James said after Wednesday’s meeting. “I’ve been to all of the commission meetings and I still don’t understand what’s going on.”

She was one of several people, most of them current or former band members, to speak during the public comment part of the meeting.

Ryan Neumann, former band manager and announcer, said conflict caused him to step down after a decade with the band.

“I realized that the only way to repair the band was to step down,” Neumann said. “I don’t agree with all of the decisions, but I agree with the dismissals for the same reason I left – the band is bigger than one person, and the needs of many outweigh the needs of the few.”

Band member Nicole Oberg said she was surprised by the dismissals, but reprimanded both sides for the way the situation was handled and made a plea to other members.

“I was disappointed by some of the things that were said on social media, and neither side took the high road in some instances,” Oberg said. “I believe we are obligated to secure the future of the band, and by refusing to play, you’ll hurt yourself and the city more than the commission.”

The commission told the audience before the comment portion that it would not respond to anyone’s input.

When it resumed its business, the band members on the commission, Kevin O’Keefe and Amy Boze, were tasked with coming up with names to consider for the interim conductor’s position. The interview process will be set up and names submitted in time for the Oct. 8 meeting.

It was decided that an outside search would be done for a permanent director, but band members will be considered for the job. Band practices begin Nov. 7.

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