CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Sonja L. Smith has decided, after almost 40 years as a band director, it's time to pass the baton to someone else. Smith is the only band director Hopewell High School has ever had.
The 59-year-old started her career in Florida at the ripe old age of 21. She came to Hopewell in 2001 when the school opened, and has made it her home.
"The irony of this is, I did not want to be in band. My mother dragged me to the music store kicking and screaming," Smith said of her beginnings in music as a 12-year-old.
If little Sonja would have only known, she'd soon fall in love with the flute and band, and that grown-up Sonja would one day say, "A job has been something I've never had. I've just always done my passion, so I've never worked."
Over the years, Smith has shared her love of music with thousands of kids. She's the first African-American female to hold the title at a Charlotte-Mecklenburg school, and she's built a legacy that won't ever be forgotten.
"You can't make something your passion without somebody who helps make it like that," said Sarah Sisk, a junior drum major under Smith.
But every beautiful song has to end. And Smith says her time is now.
"I just think it's time to let my kids venture into someone new. Someone with a little more energy," Smith said.
Smith will leave the school for the last time at the end of May, but not without sharing some of her incredible wisdom.
"What I tell my students is, when you start trying to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life, find your passion. The money will fall into place. Find your passion," Smith said.