Rich Howells

EXCLUSIVE: Lineup announced for benefit remembering drummer Tommy Wynder on Aug. 12

EXCLUSIVE: Lineup announced for benefit remembering drummer Tommy Wynder on Aug. 12
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While the world was mourning the death of legendary Pantera drummer and co-founder Vinnie Paul on Friday, June 22, Northeastern Pennsylvania was also reeling from the loss of Tommy Wynder, a beloved and respected drummer in his own right, that same night.

Born in Pittston, the Exeter musician who graduated from Pittston Area High School and Wilkes University passed away unexpectedly at age 42. He was known across the area for his masterful drumming in local bands like Nowhere Slow, M80, The Five Percent, Souled Out, Option, and 123Go, among others, as well as teaching music to students in the Pittston Area, Wyoming Area, Lake-Lehman, Valley West, and Norristown school districts.

As hundreds of heartfelt tributes to Wynder began popping up on social media, the local music scene immediately started planning a benefit for his family, particularly for his young daughters, Kelce and Avery Wynder. Dubbed “For Tommy: A Celebration of Life,” the event will be held at the River Street Jazz Cafe (667 S. River St., Plains) on Sunday, Aug. 12 from 4 p.m.-midnight.

Today, the organizers are announcing the musical and culinary lineup of the benefit exclusively on NEPA Scene.

The music, which features many of his former bandmates, includes live performances by Andrew Jon Sleboda of Option (solo), Soul Reunion, The Five Percent, A Proud Monkey, Brian Quinn of Candlebox (solo), M80, Nowhere Slow, and a “superjam” featuring Robb Brown, Dustin Drevitch, Kermit Alphonso, Krysten Montgomery, Jeremy Wood, Jamie Hutch, and others TBA.

Food will be provided by some of the top chefs in NEPA, including Chef Jim Guasto of Grico’s, Chef Michael Langdon of Alter House, Chef Chris Mullin of Glenmaura National Golf Club, Chef Gene Philbin of Peculiar Slurp Shop, and Chef John Tabone of Bar Pazzo.

There will also be raffles and a cash bar. Tickets are $20 at the door, with all proceeds benefiting Wynder’s family.

His obituary published on June 27 said, “Tommy was a loving father, brother, uncle, and friend, and he will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him,” a sentiment that was shared in many Facebook posts after his passing. Nowhere Slow wrote:

Last night we learned devastating news that our former drummer, Tommy Wynder, had passed away. It’s still a shock to the three of us who had spent countless days traveling, bonding, and sharing a stage together. He has made a profound impact on us individually and collectively as a band. He introduced us to many opportunities, made us laugh, and amazed and humbled us with his talents. From 2012 through 2017, we traveled the East Coast sharing many memories, inside jokes, and incredible sets. He was a passionate man who always had his two daughters on his mind wherever we went. His musical ability has shaped us as a band, and his personality as a person will never be forgotten. As we scroll through social media today, we’re reminded as to how many lives he has impacted. We’re proud of the accomplishments we made with him as a drummer, a friend, and a member of our band family. We wholeheartedly appreciate the many of our friends who have understood this bond and reached out to us. He’ll be forever missed by all. Godspeed, Tommy Wynder – keep watch over your little girls.

M80 added, “Rest in peace to our very talented brother Tommy Wynder, a great friend to so many in the local music scene and a wonderful father to his two young girls. Tommy was a member of M80 from 2010 through 2013. Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are with Tommy and his family. We are deeply shocked and will miss him dearly.”

Pittston Area High School music teacher Adam Burdett‎ posted a personal message to the Pittston Area Marching Band group:

The Marching Patriot family has lost one of the good ones. He was a former member of the band, a former percussion instructor, and a percussion arranger for many years since graduating in 1994 up until as recently as the 2005 season before he moved on to great success with other programs as well.

His influence on many drummers who have gone through this program is very hard to measure. I can remember being in the Middle School Concert Band where I first got to know him and he referred to me as the kid with the yellow drumsticks. He will most definitely be missed by those who knew him. Rest in peace, Tommy Wynder – the marching band in the sky just got a whole lot better!

Breaking Benjamin bassist and backing vocalist Aaron Bruch said, “I was proud to call Tommy Wynder a friend. He will be missed. The world is less musical without you, brother. May you rest in peace.”

Local cover band Pink Slip also shared a story from their drummer, Mike Cavello, with a picture of a wooden groove wedge attached to one of his drums:

This is a Russ Miller groove wedge by Yamaha. No longer produced, I recently saw it listed for around $300 on eBay. I was lucky enough to buy one before the stock was sold out a couple years back. I bought it because Tommy Wynder had one. We were both playing a showcase a couple years ago and I was just blown away not just by his playing, but his use of the tools at his disposal, including the groove wedge. I’m not gonna pretend that owning one made me play any better, but in my mind, I leveled up because Tommy had one.

I’m also not gonna pretend Tommy and I were best friends. We didn’t hang out, talk, or text all the time, but our friendship and mutual respect goes back decades… right through middle and high school. We were both known as the “drummers.” I was the metal guy, and Tommy was just phenomenal, but whenever we hooked up, there was never an ego to deal with. He always spoke to me as an equal, although I always look at him with reverence… and that was our relationship over the years. Whenever we saw each other it was always great conversation. Who’s doing what with who… what kind of new toys do each of us have… just awesome. The last time I saw Tommy was at the beginning of last school year.

Our kids both in the same grade attending Pittston Area, we both went to the parent teacher meet and greet. Didn’t take long ’til it was me, Tommy, and Louie Marino standing in a circle talking shop. That was a moment I remember fondly because I felt like I was standing shoulder to shoulder with giants, at the same time feeling way out of my league, but again accepted and spoken to like an equal. That’s how I remember Tom. Generous guy.. .big heart… loved his kids and a loss to the music community.

I think it’s ironic that Tom would leave us the same night as my drumming idol Vinnie Paul. I picture both of them right now, wherever they are, talking shop. Just one more thing that this man one-upped me with. (No offense to anyone, but I can’t help but think Tommy would laugh at that). I’m sad about the fact that I won’t be able to see him again, but I will always remember fondly the times we got to hang out.

‘Til we meet again down the road… love and respect,

Mike Cavello

See NEPA Scene’s photos of Tommy Wynder performing with Nowhere Slow at the Scranton St. Patrick’s Parade in 2016 here.

Photo by Keith Perks/1120 Studios/NEPA Scene