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.

Sonja Pluess (WI) received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin in 1957 where she was the Tallman Scholar her senior year. From 1957-1963, Sonja taught instrumental and vocal music in all twelve grades in Durand, Illinois. During the summer, she started her master’s degree program at Western State College. In 1963-1964, Sonja was the graduate assistant at Western State College where she served as rehearsal director for the Colorado Brass Band, assistant brass choir director, assistant marching band director, and played in the symphonic band, orchestra and brass choir. She completed her Master’s Degree and moved on to Sterling, Colorado where she was an elementary and junior high cadet band director during 1965-1967. Sonja moved to Gunnison, Colorado in 1967 and was the instrumental and vocal instructor at Gunnison High School. The Gunnison Bands, under Sonja’s direction, received consistent superior ratings at festivals. The band was selected twice to perform for the Colorado Music Educators Association Conference in 1974 and 1982. In 1985, Sonja moved to Fort Morgan, Colorado where she was the 5th grade, middle school, and high school band director. She also co-directed five musicals and the symphonic band received its first ever superior rating under her direction in 1990. Sonja retired in 1994 and returned to Wisconsin where she was an active substitute teacher in Edgerton and Evansville School Districts until 2016. In addition, Sonja was a very active adjudicator for the Wisconsin School Music Association judging solo/ensemble and concert festivals across the state of Wisconsin.

Sonja's professional activities:

• Colorado High School Activity Association Music Committee-Western Slope representative (4 years) and

North Eastern Colorado representative (2 years)

• Master adjudicator for CMEA solo/ensemble, large group, and sight-reading festivals

• Honors Band Clinician for the following bands in CO: Silverton-Ouray-Telluride HS Honor Band, Delta County HS Honor Band, Moffat County MS Honor Band, North-Eastern Prairie HS Honor Band, Western Slope MS Honor Band

• Served on the North Central Schools Association Evaluations Team

• Supervised numerous student teachers from Adams State College and Western State College

• Held professional memberships in the American School Band Directors Association, Music Educators National Conference, National Band Association, Wisconsin Chapter of the NBA, Wisconsin Music Educators Association

• Has performed professionally in the Rock Prairie Band At the University of Wisconsin-Rock County, Palmyra-Eagle Community Band, First Brigade Brass Band of WI, and Blessed Brass at the First United Methodist Church in Madison, WI.

• Coordinated brass choir at Hope Lutheran Church, Milton, WI

In addition to all of the above, Sonja has been an active and extremely dedicated member of the ASBDA. She was nominated and confirmed for membership in 1974. She was an active member of the Colorado Chapter and was involved with the 1986 Colorado convention. Her first convention was in Columbus, Ohio in 1975. In 1999, at the convention in Brookfield, WI, Sonja decided to become more actively involved. At the 2000 convention in Snowmass, CO, she became a member of the national membership committee. She ran for the National Membership Chair and was the Chair for many years starting in 2004. Each year, Sonja worked to refine the process and was diligent in following all procedures to ensure that all was done appropriately. Since 2002, she has served as the state secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin Chapter of ASBDA. In 2009, at the Nashville Convention, Sonja was awarded the Edwin Franko Goldman Award “in appreciation and gratitude for outstanding personal contributions to the school band movement.”

It is clear to see that our incredibly valuable member, Sonja Pluess has spent her life in the service of students and colleagues in the band world. I have personally been the very lucky recipient of her guidance and mentorship throughout much of my career. I witnessed Sonja take the membership chairmanship over and clean up what was quite a mess at the time. We owe her a huge debt of gratitude that may be forgotten over time but what could have been catastrophic to the association had Sonja not straightened out the membership process. At the time of her nomination and acceptance, the band world was quite male dominated and I cannot imagine how incredible her bands must have been for her to have been elected to ASBDA membership at that time in history. As I stated at the beginning, Sonja Pluess is the embodiment of lifetime service and I am forever grateful to have known her. Please give her your most serious consideration for the Al and Gladys Wright Lifetime Service Award.

Thank you--Val Gaffney (WI), ASBDA Past President and Secretary

Past Recipients

James Sewrey, 2022 

David  Reul, 2021