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New direction for city band?

Newly formed commission would oversee band, other arts

DIXON – The Dixon Municipal Band was looking for new life after budget cuts.

The Sauk Valley Arts and Culture Commission couldn’t find grant funding and hasn’t met in 6 months.

Both groups might have a solution: Work together.

If the Dixon City Council approves, the combined groups would form the Dixon Municipal Band Commission for the Arts.

Doing so would fully fund the band for next season. The band’s budget for this season was halved by the cash-strapped city, forcing it to have fewer musicians and performances.

The new commission would oversee and promote the band.

“We asked, ‘How can we resurrect this band after big budget cuts?” said Mark Bressler, band director. “There was another city commission for the arts and not performing, so we fused the two.”

Dixon Mayor Jim Burke said he likes the idea, but the Dixon City Council will have the final say. It would have to allocate between $42,000 and $50,000 in the 2013-14 budget. The band typically has operated on a budget of about $40,000.

If approved, the commission would form May 1, 2013.

“Dixon is developing into a nice art community, and that’s good for economic development, no doubt about it,” Burke said. “This commission would be in charge of pulling it all together.”

Dixon Main Street Executive Director Josh Albrecht is on the Sauk Valley Arts and Culture Commission. He said the group has managed to create a website for local artists to promote their work and a printed brochure of events, but has not accomplished anything else.

“Our reach was way too broad; ‘to benefit all of Sauk Valley,’” Albrecht said. “We want to refocus on the municipal band, then diversify to other arts activities or events in the future.”

Albrecht said the commission, which did not receive city funds, could not obtain any grant money to be successful, since it was a new group.

“Combining with a group that’s been around (since the 1800s) will help us with grants,” he said.

The merger also could give city commissioners more control over the band’s funds and provide more transparency to the community. That’s important in the aftermath of the theft of nearly $54 million over two decades by former city Comptroller Rita Crundwell.

Currently, the band manager and director work together to provide a budget to the city. If a band and arts commission is created, it would have public meetings and all major financial moves would need the City Council’s approval.

Bressler called it a win-win.

“I think the City Council gets overwhelmed with everything else that we become small potatoes compared to what they have on their plate,” he said. “This will give them an oversight group and more extension into the performing arts community as a whole.”

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