Weaving the Festival Fabric: Meet Well Dunn

With the beautiful world that music and entertainment provides, opportunities can seem reserved and far-reaching for those striving and passionate who don’t have the connections or resources to get involved. Yet, the Well Dunn Foundation stands as a leader of inclusivity and equity, committed to nurturing the talents and passions of socioeconomically diverse students. Founded in honor of Emily Dunn, a guiding light in the industry whose legacy embodies leadership and dedication, Well Dunn has a mission to foster the next generation of industry trailblazers.

The mission of Well Dunn Foundation is to provide avenues for aspiring individuals to realize their dreams within the music and entertainment sphere. Through a multifaceted approach encompassing educational forums, networking initiatives, mentorship programs with industry professionals, and iconic internship scholarships, Well Dunn empowers students to build essential skills and invaluable connections.

Emily Dunn’s journey has become both inspiration and a blueprint for the foundation’s endeavors. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Emily’s passion for entertainment blossomed early on, driving her to immerse herself in all facets of the industry. Beginning with her formative years in high school and following with her collegiate pursuits at Washington University in St. Louis, Emily’s determination to learn and contribute was going to eventually become a movement.

Her pivotal moment came at Bonnaroo in 2005, where she discovered a vibrant community and endless opportunities. Eager to be more than just a festival-goer, Emily dove headfirst into the festival’s operations, starting as an intern and swiftly becoming an indispensable asset. Tragically, her promising career was cut short in 2011, but her legacy endured through the Well Dunn Foundation.

Emily believed in paying it forward. She dedicated herself to mentoring others, sharing her knowledge, and nurturing talent within the industry. Her boundless energy, intellect, and warmth left an indelible mark on all who crossed her path, embodying the values that the Well Dunn foundation continues to uphold.

Today, Well Dunn continues Emily’s eternal spirit, championing diversity, excellence, and opportunity in an industry ripe for transformation. As it continues to empower the next generation of entertainment leaders, the foundation ensures that Emily’s legacy lives on, one aspiring talent at a time.

Well Dunn gathering at Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival

We had the opportunity to speak with Nancy Tarr, the executive director with Well Dunn:

What do you hope for the future of music on the basis of what Well Dunn strives to accomplish?

My hope is that companies, philanthropists and universities will work with nonprofits like Well Dunn to create a sustainable workforce in the music and entertainment industry.  The cost of living is going up dramatically and students need paid internships, housing and transportation in their early career opportunities.  Companies like Apple Music provide these “wraparound inclusive” opportunities to create a socioeconomically diverse workforce.

What is your favorite festival and why? 

My favorite festival is The Lilith Fair. For two reasons my band “Dead Girls and Other Stories,” played that festival and it was filled with women fronted bands.   Bonnaroo is my favorite current festival though. I attended many festivals last summer and Bonnaroo creates a welcome space for fans and for those who want to work in the festival industry.   There are opportunities for colleges to teach classes, students to extern and learn from professionals and most of all be part of a welcoming music community!  Bonnaroo allows for many communities to come together, learn from each other and listen to excellent music!!

What is one of your favorite case stories of bringing a young adult into the music industry? 

Well Dunn offers four programs –

Mentorships, Paid internships, Job Shadowing and Externships.  I’m very grateful to David ‘5-1’ Norman for co-creating Well Dunn’s mentorship by bringing his touring community together to prepare Well Dunn students for a career in live events.  We’ve had numerous students start in our mentorship program, go to Bonnaroo to extern, attend Rock Lititz’s excellent career exploration program and land internships, touring opportunities and full-time jobs.  That’s the goal and the program works with excellent mentors and company partners coming together for a common purpose of empowering the next generation of live music professionals.

What is something important that music lovers should know to continue thriving in the festival community?

The most important aspect of the festival environment is the rich community that gathers around these events.  Music lovers from all walks of life converge (both festival fans and festival workers) for transformational experiences.  We are all in it together to change the world!


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