2018-2020 Southern Division President-Elect
Sonja Zonetta McLean Williams, a native of Jacksonville, NC, received her formal education in Onslow County. She attended North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, NC, where she received a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance. She further studied and received her Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Manhattan School of Music in New York, NY. While in New York, she performed with the Opera Ensemble of New York.
Mrs. Williams has over 29 years of collegiate and intermediate school teaching experience. She began her teaching career as a visiting instructor at North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, NC before returning to Onslow County to teach K-5 General Music at Richlands Elementary School. During that time, she received her K-12 Music Certification from East Carolina University, and served as an adjunct instructor for Campbell University for fourteen years. In addition, she taught choral music and Music Appreciation at the middle school level.
Mrs. Williams was named 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 before being named the 2013 – 2014 Onslow County Teacher of the Year. She served as a Mentor and Clinical Teacher for over fifteen years. Mrs. Williams’ students consistently received Superior ratings at the North Carolina Music Educators Association (NCMEA) sponsored District Choral Music Performance Adjudications. Other accolades include participation in the NC Honors and All-State choruses, an invitation to perform at the NCMEA In-Service Conference in 2000, and participation in the National Anthem Project in 2007, held in Washington, D.C.
Mrs. Williams has held many leadership positions within NCMEA, including Middle School Choral Section Member-at-Large, Chair-Elect, Chair, and currently an Adjudicator. In addition, she has served on the Board of Directors as Member-at-Large and Scholarship Chair. Mrs. Williams is a Past President of the North Carolina Music Educators Association. As a Governor’s School alumna in Choral Music, she currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Foundation.
Since 1991, Mrs. Williams has been a member of the local chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., where she has served as President, Vice-President, and Secretary. As the Minister of Music at St. Julia A.M.E. Zion Church for the last fifteen years, Mrs. Williams has also presented workshops on church hymns, entitled “The Church Sings Again.” She continues to perform and has conducted All-County choruses throughout the state.
Mrs. Williams retired from education in June 2016. She is married to Dr. Gregory J. Williams, a mother of two adult sons, and a grandmother. She enjoys visiting her family, running, and teaching group fitness classes as a certified cycling and group fitness instructor.
What do you see as the major challenges facing music education during your term as president?
One of the major challenges I see that music education will face during my presidency will be the ability to show the lifelong effects of music education on students. Government budget cuts at all levels threaten the existence of music education and thus the positive effects that impact a child’s lifelong development. Key music positions and programs are being eliminated. Children will miss the opportunity to develop the positive transferable skills associated with music education. Another challenge would be to continue to find ways to link music to STEM subjects. Current music programs are operating on skeletal budgets as funds are increasingly being allocated toward STEM-related programs. This minimizes the opportunity for music programs to flourish and provide a variety of programs and programming.
What do you see as the major challenges facing NAfME?
Discussions and articles have been posted on the NAfME website about “Why Music Education Needs to Incorporate More Diversity.” We have to understand that classrooms are more diverse than they once were. One of the challenges facing NAfME would be to ensure that music professionals incorporate more diversity in the classroom. Another challenge facing NAfME would be finding ways to keep our Tri-M and Collegiate members involved in music. We want to develop them as leaders, so they can carry on the traditions that have been set before them and create new ones.
How should our Association respond to these challenges?
As the National Association for Music Education, we can provide resources at the state and national level to facilitate the initiative to create student-centered classrooms. This would give the students more ownership in their musical development. Students would also bring their diverse cultures into the classroom to share with others. Establishing well defined mentorship programs at the collegiate and high school level to promote ongoing music connection, as well as provide opportunities for “Emerging Leaders” in each state.
Challenges are only opportunities for growth!