Sonja Zonetta McLean Williams, a native of Jacksonville, NC, received her education in Onslow County. She continued her studies at North Carolina School of the Arts, where she received a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance. Mrs. Williams studied with Ms. Betty Allen, Executive Director of Harlem School of the Arts. After leaving NCSA, Mrs. Williams went to New York and received her Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Manhattan School of Music. While in New York, she performed with the Opera Ensemble of New York in their production of Four Saints in Three Acts.
She returned to North Carolina and began her first teaching job in the Music Department at North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, NC. She married and went back to Onslow County, where she taught K-5 General Music at Richlands Elementary School for two years. She received her K-12 Music Certification from East Carolina University during that time. Mrs. Williams was also an adjunct instructor for Campbell University for fourteen years. A position became available at Jacksonville Middle School where she taught choral music and Music Appreciation. The school was closed in 1997 and Mrs. Williams started the choral program at Jacksonville Commons Middle School.
Mrs. Williams was recognized by her peers as Teacher of the Year three times: once at Jacksonville Middle School and twice at Jacksonville Commons Middle School. She was a semi-finalist and finalist at the County level. She was named the 2013 – 2014 Onslow County Teacher of the Year. She has been a Mentor and Clinical Teacher. Mrs. Williams’ students consistently received Superior ratings at the North Carolina Music Educators (NCMEA) sponsored District Choral Music Performance Adjudications. They were selected to participate in the NC Honors and All-State choruses. They were invited and performed at the NCMEA In-Service Conference in 2000. Her students participated in the National Anthem Project in 2007, held in Washington, DC.
She served the NCMEA Middle School Choral Section as Member-at-Large, Chair-Elect, Chair, Solo/Small Ensemble/Large Choral Festival Adjudicator. She served on the NCMEA Board of Directors as Member-at-Large and Scholarship Chair. Mrs. Williams is a Past President of the North Carolina Music Educators Association and is the Southern Division President of the National Association for Music Education.
In the community, she is the secretary of the local chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., a community-conscious, action-oriented organization. She served as the Minister of Music at St. Julia A.M.E. Zion Church for 15 years. Mrs. Williams has presented workshops on hymns of the church, entitled “The Church Sings Again.” She continues to perform, adjudicate, and has conducted All-County choruses throughout the state. Mrs. Williams attended Governor’s School East in Choral Music in 1979 and served on the Board of Directors for Governor’s School Foundation from 2016 – 2019.
Mrs. Williams retired from education in June 2016, after almost 30 years. She is married, a mother of two adult sons, and a grandmother. When she is not visiting her family or involved in music, she enjoys running and teaching group fitness classes!