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A Workforce Development Organization for Musicians in the Pittsburgh Region

Board of Directors
Sean McDowell, President
Jon Tryc, Vice President
Jace Wingard, Treasurer
Kelly Vennare Tryc, Secretary
Bob Banerjee
Kay Bey
Evan Dean, LSW
Joey Granati
Timothy Johns
Dustin Lebau
Byron Nash
Patrick K. Nightingale, Esq.
Danny Rectenwald
Juli Strang-Tryc
Stevee Wellons
Mark Wiehagen

Scott Anderson, Emeritus

Annie Pugar, Founder and Executive Director

Ben Tryc, Music Consultant
Todd DePastino, Ph.D., History Consultant


Our Mission and Vision

The Sonny Pugar Memorial, Inc. strengthens the region's cultural workforce and economy by ensuring a vibrant contemporary music scene. To further our mission, we underwrite local professional musicians’ live performances in area health facilities, sponsor showcases to spotlight original music and creative interpretation, and pursue opportunities that encourage a sense of community among local musicians.

We identify contemporary music as current grassroots: rock, blues, r&b, jazz, country, soul, pop, and all those genre both related and derivative. Our vision of contemporary music is the song that both defines the current population and speaks to their memories. Ever changing, it is the voice of the present day and a reminder of days not so long ago.

In support of our mission, we: --Educate the region on the importance of contemporary music in building a sense of community, in strengthening the social fabric, and in growing the economy. --Encourage musicians in their professional growth and in their connections and contributions to the general community.

We believe that a strong contemporary music community helps expand a region's population, economy and cultural diversity. The Memorial encourages the entire Pittsburgh community to recognize the musicians who affect their community in ways no other artists can, yet have been truly "unsung." Culture doesn't always wear silk and pearl--sometimes it sports denim and metal.

Our Major Programs

"MUSIC SMILES"   For over ten years, Sonny Pugar played for the region's school children with Etta Cox in a Gateway to the Arts school assembly program. Etta's show for the kids was one of his favorite gigs, so it seemed fitting that when he died, The Memorial continued to focus on music for children. This was how we decided that our initial effort would be supporting the existing music therapy program at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Now as a public charity, we offer the "Music Smiles" project, which will both continue and expand those efforts with live performances that  merge with music therapy programs in hospitals and other institutions. 

"CODA" Our belief that contemporary music serves the well being of a community underlies our design of this primary source, web-based archive of established artists' personal narratives. Through research and interview, we relate the history of regional contemporary music to southwestern Pennsylvania's modern history, demonstrating music's ties to the economic and social fiber of our region. We plan to work with other research groups such as cultural anthropologists, historians, and music archivists to produce a video library of musicians relating stories about their profession and their places in the 20th Century history of our area. Additionally, we will include interviews with the other half of the performance--the people who listened to the music--and sound out how the music influenced their lives.

"ANNUAL RHYTHMS OF LIFE CONCERT" This annual event is the major fundraising concert and supports the mission by combining on stage all-star regional established artists and emerging talent. We present these artists in a showcase that is not usually seen anywhere else in our region. With creative staging, we encourage musicians to introduce their originals to their audiences, as well as treat their fans to original interpretations of covers.


YouTube—Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

WPXI Proud to be from Pittsburgh
YouTube Link

Samantha Sears - Pittsburgh Area Singer Songwriter
Explore Jefferson PA Link
The Almanac Link

Whirl Magazine

The Children’s Institute


Our History

When Southwestern Pennsylvania drummer Sonny Pugar, after whom this organization is named, died in August 2004 after a six-year battle with colon cancer, his friends in the local music community literally banded together to produce a memorial concert. The money that was raised from this memorial concert in 2004 was donated to the music therapy program at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh in Sonny's name. The artists who performed at this first memorial concert were the most influential and prolific contemporary musicians in Southwestern Pennsylvania. After this first concert, Sonny's friends and fellow musicians discussed the joy they all experienced in bringing the local music community together and in donating money in Sonny's honor for the music therapy program at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. The desire to memorialize Sonny by furthering his love of music by supporting local contemporary musicians and sharing this local music with others in the community prompted the group to organize another concert in 2005. In 2006 and 2007, under the banner of The Sonny Pugar Memorial, Inc., Sonny's friends and family produced the memorial concert and donated the proceeds to music therapy at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. The funds donated to Children's Hospital over the four years were used to provide musical performances, musical storytelling, songbooks, musical instruments, and CD's for the children. Due to the success of the memorial concerts and a desire to educate local audiences on contemporary music indigenous to or widely played in Southwestern Pennsylvania, as well as provide local musicians with support to pursue their art, Sonny's family and friends made the decision to incorporate and form a non-profit in his honor. The Sonny Pugar Memorial, Inc. was incorporated in July 2006.


As a result of the success in raising monies for Children's Hospital music therapy and the satisfaction that came with that endeavor, one of our favorite projects to support our mission remains designing live music programs to merge with music therapy programs in regional hospitals and other institutions, the "Music Smiles" program. In addition, while we widen our purpose and identity, we encourage the growth of the region's "grassroots" music. The musicians who play the music that you hear everyday, that you listen to in the clubs, those you may book for parties and weddings, all have as much need for support and development as the extraordinary artists in the classical and traditional genres, but are often overlooked in community funding. Yet these musicians are part of the weave of our region's cultural tapestry, as they have been part of all cultures throughout history.

Sonny Pugar.... One of the area's noted rock, r&b, and jazz drummers, in whose memory this non-profit organization was formed. In 2004, he died at the age of 54 after living with colon cancer for six years.

Our Mission.... Dedicates us to encouraging live regional music.

Thanks.... To all of the wonderful artists who have supported us since the beginning of our efforts. Our gratitude also extends to all who came to hear the music.

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