Sonny Pugar Memorial Music Smiles Program


The Sonny Pugar Memorial is a non-profit organization of musicians who raise funds with an annual concert fund the Music Smile Program that underwrites live performance music therapy in local hospitals. It also sponsor showcases to spotlight original music and built a community among Pittsburgh area musicians. 

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. 

The annual Rhythms of Life concert, held at the Meadows has featured performances by Etta Cox, Kenny Blake, Johnny Angel, the Granati Bros, Andrea Pearl and Shari Richards, 

The annual RHYTHMS OF LIFE CONCERT" supports the mission by with performance of all-star regional musicians and emerging artists.  The artists perform their original music and their unique intepretations of popular music classics. .

Sonny Pugar

Andrew Sonny Pugar was a professional drummer for forty years working at a touring drummer and studio musician.  He also authored the drumming method text book "AndrewSlick Licks" and gave private drum lessions.

A native of Ambrige, Pa Sony endless drumming on pots and pans as a toddler led his parents to buy him his first drum at age 2.  He began playing professionally at the age of 12 and was performing in clubs four nights a week at age 14 Perform at the Big Duck Club in Center Township, Pa Sonny  the broke the world record for the longest drum solo at the age of 16 playing a consecutive 32 hours, 35 minutes, 29 seconds without stopping, .   

Working with B. E. Taylor in "The Redcoats,” Sonny honed his performance skills. He formed the band the Citations with his friend Randy Shoup

Sonny went on to tour nationally throughout the United States and Canada as he worked with steel guitarist Buddy Emmons, the Coasters, the Skyliners and many others. He became a studio musician in Los Angeles studios and performed on the on L.A. stages with the country rock band “Elvis Montana,” in the 1980s.

He spent seven year working on the West Coast from the mid 1970s through the mid 1980s.  He returned to live in Pittsburgh where he performed Kenny Blake, Etta Cox, Al Dowe, Tony Janflone Jr., Billy Price, Shari Richards, and Sputzy and The Soul Providers, as well as many other regional musicians. One of his favorite gigs was playing for school kids in the Pittsburgh Gateway to the Arts school assembly program, which he did for over ten years with Etta Cox.

"He was a great drummer, a really versatile drummer," said Janflone. "He played jazz and R&B, some rock. [He] even played some country music." - Tony JanFlone Jr.

One of the high points of his career came in 1992 when legendary jazz drummer Louis Bellson endorsed Sonny’s method textbook, with Bellson asserting that he practiced with the book while he was on the road. Bellson further noted that Sonny’s “Slick Licks” text got “right to the core of what a drummer needs to know.”

It was during this same time period that he also became known as the “Upper St. Clair drummer” in his successful push to get a home occupation ordinance zoning law passed in that community, where he made his home with his two stepsons, two dogs, his HO model trains, and his wife Annie.

After a six-year illness, Sonny lost his life to colon cancer at age 54 on August 6, 2004.  As he matured as an artist, he understood the concept of filling space. “Being a drummer is like painting a picture. But instead of colors and shapes, you use rhythms,” he said.