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Mountain Home Magazine

Dave Wert Drums Home

Jul 01, 2023 09:00AM ● By Lilace Mellin Guignard

Take it from Dave Wert, a drummer with roots in the Endless Mountain Music Festival. “You feel the enthusiasm of the audiences at EMMF. The summer is special here.” As a music student at Mansfield University, he was offered an internship in the orchestra. “It was phenomenal,” he says, being able to learn under professional musicians. He came back the next year.

He was tempted by the life of a performer but stayed dead set on education, eventually becoming band director at nearby Elkland High School and then at Cowanesque Valley High School. Though he grew up outside Scranton, he fell in love with the Wellsboro area through his experiences with EMMF and especially on stage with Hamilton-Gibson Productions, the community theater. Then one day, a Marine recruiter at his school told him about the opportunities for a few good musicians.

After seven years in a job he loved, Dave was still intrigued. He remembered how much fun performing had been. “Being in the Marines was not on my bucket list,” he laughs, “but having experienced EMMF I thought while I’m new in my career is the time to try something else, something outside my comfort zone.” He was twenty-nine when he enlisted (“an old guy” he says), went to boot camp, combat training, then the school of music to learn the tunes, and was assigned to the Parris Island Marine Band in South Carolina. They played at ceremonies and parades, but their main gig was graduations every Friday.

“It was a little like the movie Groundhog Day,” he says. All the classes looked the same. He didn’t just play music, though. “The Marine’s motto is ‘every Marine a rifleman,’ and I enjoyed shooting so much I got certified as a shooting coach. The drive to be in the classroom never left.” After his four years in active duty were up, he worked at a middle school in Williamsburg for a year before former colleagues told him his old position at CV was coming open. So he came home. He’s band director and theater director at the high school and at Westfield Elementary.

He’s proud when some of his students go on to act with Hamilton-Gibson or play in the town band. Maybe someday they’ll play with EMMF. That is something Dave is happy to be doing again.

This summer he plays with the orchestra and is a featured performer in two percussion recitals alongside Jason Mathena, jazz ensemble director at Millsaps College. Don’t miss “Bach to Rock” on July 24 at 7 p.m. at the Tioga County Courthouse in Wellsboro, and “Anyone Can Play the Drums” on August 2 at 7 p.m. at the Knoxville Yoked Church—which is free. Dave says that what makes EMMF different is not the musicians, it’s the location.

“EMMF makes this type of music more accessible in an area where it isn’t typically found, for a price point that’s not typical either.”

Tickets for all EMMF concerts are available at, or by calling (570) 787-7800.

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