In 1994, then-Pittston Area Band Director Bob Lemoncelli said a student of his emerged as one of the most talented musicians from the school district.
That student is now helping give back to the community through music.
Tommy Wynder, 40, of Forty Fort, was featured in the Sunday, May 1, 1994 edition of the Sunday Dispatch’s “Spotlight” for his prowess as a drummer. At the time, Wynder received thousands of dollars in scholarships to attend the Berklee School of Music as part of the Pittston Area Jazz Band.
While still a professional playing up and down the East Coast and at local events, Wynder has been teaching percussion as part of a co-op with Pittston Area and Wyoming Area for the past 10 years. Previously, Wynder was the director of percussion at Lake-Lehman.
“Once in a while you get a group of kids that you latch on to,” Wynder said. “When I was in school if you were going to be a musician you focused solely on that. Now, kids get pulled in so many different directions.”
By the time Wynder was a senior at Pittston Area, he had already won $4,000 in scholarships from Berklee School of Music in Boston, Massachusetts from several different jazz band competitions. In 1994, Lemoncelli said, “Tom is probably one of the best drummers in the country.”
“It goes with anything that there is always more you can learn,” Wynder said. “It was just something I gravitated toward.”
Taking a different path
Following high school graduation, Wynder visited the campus of Berklee and decided it wasn’t the right fit for him. He would eventually study at Luzerne County Community College and Wilkes University. Wynder entered the work force and put music on the backburner.
“I didn’t like the atmosphere (at Berklee) for whatever reason,” he said. “I didn’t think it was a good fit. My intent was to do music education and that wasn’t a good fit. Teaching full time was just not for me. I’m not sure what it is.”
Then, music came back to the forefront.
He became a professional drummer in 1997, three years after he graduated from Pittston Area. Wynder played with the band Souled Out for approximately 10 years, while also teaching private lessons and at Pittston Area. While taking a year off from bands, Wynder worked as a freelance drummer. In that capacity, he was called upon to be a fill-in when acts come to the area. He’s played with the likes of the Aretha Franklin, the Gin Blossoms, Rob Thomas, Lee Howard Stevens and Jewel.
He would later join local bands The Five Percent and M80, before joining his current band called Nowhere Slow. That band currently travels up and down the east coast playing gigs. Nowhere Slow writes a lot of its own material and plays a lot of covers, Wynder said. Recently, the band played at the Radisson in Scranton during the St. Patrick’s Parade.
Wynder has been with Nowhere Slow for four years.
Starting drums young
Wynder received his first drum with the help of his grandparents, Jack and Jean Walsh, and aunt, Donna Walsh. He was just an infant at the time, and by the time he reached high school, he was labeled as the “next Buddy Rich,” according to the story published in 1994.
Wynder said Lemoncelli gave him his first “break.” After middle school band practice one day, Wynder was jamming in the band room during some free time. It just so happened that Lemoncelli was in the next room and heard Wynder’s ability.
“I was in eighth grade,” Wynder said. “There’s always kids that are older. He didn’t care about age, he just wanted what’s best for the kids. I guess he saw something in me to give me a shot. He’s the reason why I’m doing (teaching).”
Wynder had two lessons when he was seven years old. Since then, he’s mostly been self-taught. In high school, Wynder was part of the band Option which played at local under-21 clubs. In his senior year, he was under the drum tutelage of local teacher Angelo Stella.
Wynder spent a lot of his younger years at Rock Street Music in Pittston. Rich Kosuth, owner of Rock Street Music, would let a young Wynder into his shop, which was just a couple blocks away from Wynder’s home, anytime and play all day long before he had his own drum set.
“He was pivotal in me being able to play,” Wynder said. “My grandmother eventually got me a drum set. I would spend hours in my room until the neighbors got upset.”
Wynder is known for his drumming around the county. He is currently an educational artist for a handful of different drum equipment manufacturers. Getting to this point has been a long process, Wynder said. However, he doesn’t regret anything and he wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“I can’t see myself doing anything else,” he said. “It’s cliché, but I was born to play the drums.”