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Municipal bands paying tribute to fallen teen member

DIXON – The Dixon and Sterling municipal bands this week will pay tribute to a young band member who died last month in a car crash.

Valerie Johnson, 17, of Savanna, an aspiring band director who played clarinet and alto sax, died June 20 in a single-car accident between Savanna and Mount Carroll.

She had been a member of the Dixon band for about a year, band director Mark Bressler said, and would have been a senior at West Carroll High School this fall. She also was a member of the Sauk Valley Community College band.

“I think [music] was a stable influence – the social as well as the artistic,” Bressler said. “It gave her a place beyond family that made it feel complete with herself.”

In the middle of the Dixon band’s performance Thursday night, the music will stop and Bressler will give a eulogy to Valerie, who, he said, he got to know away from music and who was a baby sitter for his children.

After the eulogy, the music will continue, with two songs dedicated to Johnson – “Trauermusik” and “Stormchasers March” – that were among her favorites.

“Trauermusik” is German; it means “funeral music” in English.

“That was Valerie’s favorite piece from the year,” Bressler said. “She was very passionate about that piece of music.”

According to its website, Sterling’s band is dedicating tonight’s concert to Valerie; further details were unavailable Tuesday.

Valerie’s is survived by her parents, James and Tammi Johnson, and a younger sister, Hannah. More about her life can be found at

To attend

Sterling Municipal Band ( will play at 7:30 tonight at the Grandon Civic Center downtown.

Dixon Municipal Band ( will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Page Park Band Shell.

Both performances are free.

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