The Al & Gladys Wright

Lifetime Service to Bands Award

The Wright Award is a newly created recognition made possible by the ASBDA through the generous donation and contribution of Gladys Wright in memory of her husband Al.

The Wright Award is meant to recognize a retired band director who has made significant contributions to school bands during a distinguished career and continues to do so during retirement.

To be eligible for the award a recipient must have:

1. been an active ASBDA member and is currently a retired, dues-paying ASBDA member.

2. had a distinguished career prior to retirement which included service to bands and continued involvement by providing leadership, service, and/or other meaningful value to school bands, their directors, and to the profession as a whole.

James (Jim) Sewrey is a Charter member of the American School Band Directors Association and well known as a legendary teacher and founder of the Percussive Arts Society. His influence in the world of percussion education is both wide and deep.

In January 1961, Jim was engaged in addressing a session of public school administrators and teachers about his approach to the scheduling of junior high school music students during the Southwest MENC convention. He had been recommended to do this session at this regional convention by John Roberts, Music supervisor of the Denver Public Schools, because his band and orchestra program at Flood Junior High School, in Englewood, Colorado had been recognized as being most exemplary. Remo Belli, Fred Hovey, Frank Arsenault, and George Frock met regarding a mandate Remo Belli had received to set a name for an organization of college, school music educators, band/orchestra percussion performers, professional studio percussion teachers, composition writers, and others, that would represent them as a musical organization on a national-credible basis. This group announced that this founding-father organization was officially called THE PERCUSSIVE ARTS SOCIETY, which Jim had suggested.

Prior to the establishment and naming of The Percussive Arts Society, Jim was collaborating with J.D. Morsch on the organization of a school student percussion group playing music specially arranged for the use of symphonic percussion instruments. The arrangements were mainly drawn from the music written during the baroque, classical, romantic and early contemporary periods, from traditional works in the revolutionary period, military, concert and symphonic bands, the big bands, small jazz and Latin groups, music for the theatrical stage, and music written especially for films.

As a certified music educator-band/orchestra director, since 1951, Jim tried to involve himself with others, wanting to know about the musical use of percussion in solo and ensemble performances, and how to pedagogically understand approaches to its learning at all ability levels. From 1967 to 1994, as a product manager and assistant to the educational director at Ludwig Drum & Musser Mallet Companies, He was the educational director for the Ludwig Symposiums, and from 1985 to 2000, he organized a lab workshop at Carroll College under the umbrella of an educational outreach program for school students called Project Create, in which he developed beginning, intermediate and advanced percussion ensemble programs, a marching group called The Drum Brigade, and a show group called Music, Mallets & Mayhem. Upon retirement in 2000, he organized an adult percussion ensemble group named the spring City Area Percussion Ensemble.

Other accomplishments:

Jim is an endorsed teaching artist for Yamaha, Remo, Vic Firth, and others. He has served as an educational advisory member and as Chairman of the Woody Herman-Sister Fabian Fund Jazz Scholarship Committee.

Jim donated many of his personal materials including scores, books, and other resources to create the James Sewrey Percussion Library at the Wisconsin Center for Music Education in Waunakee, WI.

Jim conceptualized the development of the student drum pad and bell kit.

Jim was the Principal Percussionist of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and professor of music education and percussion at Wichita State University.

NAfME’s Teaching MusicMagazine includes an excellent feature story about Jim's “A Passion for Percussion” in Nov. 2021.

He is the co-author of “The Modern School for Mallet-Keyboard Instruments,” the Hal Leonard Advanced Band method percussion book, and composer of snare drum solos and ensembles.

He authored many articles during the time when he was editor of The Ludwig Drummer magazine.


  • 2003 ASBDA Edwin Franko Goldman Award

  • 2003 Outstanding Supporter Award from Percussive Arts Society

  • 2006 Civic Music Association of Milwaukee’s Lifetime Achievement Award

  • 2011 Wisconsin MEA Distinguished Service Award

  • 2011 Wisconsin PAS Lifetime Achievement Award

  • 2011 Yamaha Lifetime Achievement Award in Education

  • 2015 Nominee for the Music Educator GRAMMY Award

Past Recipients

David Reul, 2021