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Foundation Born from Death of Emerging Industry Pro Seeks to Support Live Events Dreams for Students

Guest Feature: Well Dunn


Emily Dunn was a very passionate young person. When she chose to do something, she saw it through. In 2005, when she was just 16, she talked her mom, Deborah, into going to Bonnaroo together where she immediately fell in love with live events. Over the next year, while still in high school, Emily created her own company, Well Dunn Entertainment. She worked with AC Entertainment, Suite Treatments and others every chance she had. After taking a gap year between high school and college to travel the world, she continued working extensively with concerts and events throughout college.

Jacque Barsotti, Well Dunn Board Member and Founder of Suite Treatments, met Emily through Emily’s father, Chris, in 2006. Emily volunteered to work with Jacque that summer, and between 2006 and 2010, they worked roughly 100 festivals together.


“Emily was quick, smart, no BS. That’s not very common to find in someone so young,” said Jacque.


After college, Emily went to work for Bonnaroo as an assistant to the Director of Operations. That role took her to San Francisco in 2011, where she was to open the San Francisco office for Superfly Presents with Rick Farman. She loved the city and what she was doing there, but soon after, tragedy unfolded.


While walking in a crosswalk, Emily was struck by a vehicle. Her parents, Chris and Deborah, rushed to San Francisco to be by her side, but despite her strength, Emily succumbed to her injuries.


Days later, the Dunns met with Emily’s boss, Rick Farman, who told them he’d never met anyone like Emily and wanted to keep her legacy alive. During that conversation, he learned that one of the reasons Emily was able to do so much in the industry so early was because of the unwavering support from her parents, both emotionally and, when needed, financially.


Rick knew then that he needed to develop a program for future Emilys. A program that would provide financial support and educational opportunities for those wanting to enter the live events industry. That is where Well Dunn began.


We will never know Emily’s future, but we do know her legacy,” Deborah Dunn

Well Dunn’s mission is to “nurture and train college students and those who want to get into the entertainment industry by providing them with opportunities to get more training and connecting them with companies that can hire them and get them on the road,” says Nancy Tarr, Executive Director of Well Dunn.


Additionally, Well Dunn helps support students financially through funding scholarships.


“Some students need extra financial support; a deposit on an apartment or transportation to the city where their internship is based. We do what we can to make it possible to help them get into the industry they love,” says Nancy.


The program is partially funded by a grant from the Bonnaroo Works Fund ($1 from every ticket is given to Well Dunn) and from individual partners and donors.

The pandemic took so much away from students wanting to get into the industry, but Well Dunn wanted to make sure they could still have an opportunity to learn, even if it wasn’t the internship experience they had planned. Nancy, David Norman, and the board created a mentorship program, taking advantage of the many people in the industry who used their “downtime” to give back. In fact, Well Dunn had almost 50 students in its spring program and over 40 in the current summer program. Collectively, these students have the most diverse socio-economic backgrounds of any other group that has been through Well Dunn. The goal is for the students to reflect the diversity of the artists.


“Hundreds of students - all excellent candidates - applied for the two mentorship programs. We would love to be able to provide them all with opportunities,” says Nancy.


Emily’s mom personally interviews each student who applies to the program. She wants to make sure the students are the right fit for the program and give the companies who work with Well Dunn the confidence that the student intern is the right fit for their organization. She loves talking to the students and getting to know them.


“I hear Emily’s voice so often when interviewing the students. I hear her passion in them,” she says.

Well Dunn will be celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2022, made possible by partnerships, mentors, and donors across the live events industry.


To get involved with Well Dunn as a student, a company looking to hire students, or to make a donation, visit welldunn.org



Well Dunn Alumnus Highlight:


Chris Phengsisomboun is just one example of a Well Dunn alum whose life was changed by the program. Chris grew up in the small town of Bayou La Batre, AL (yes, the town in Forrest Gump). While his family pushed him towards the medical field, he loved music from a young age and knew that’s what he wanted to pursue.


Fast forward to college where Chris spent 2 years at the University of Alabama and then finished his degree at the University of South Alabama. Chris came across an Instagram post from a friend who was interning at Live Nation. He “slid into her DMs to find out how she got the internship” and she told him about Well Dunn. Chris applied to the program and after a few months, he was placed in an internship with the Recording Academy. Well Dunn also provided him with financial support enabling him to live and work in Nashville.

His internship ended, but Chris didn’t want to leave. The GRAMMY U program needed an intern and they were able to turn that into a remote position for Chris so he could go back to school and continue to work for the organization during the spring semester. The following summer, he worked as an assistant and then in the fall, he became an administrative assistant at the Recording Academy South Region, a role he continues to hold today. Chris assists with membership and production duties for Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis, and Florida and is also an admin for the newly-launched Songwriters and Composers Wing.


“Well Dunn is about building bridges, and specifically, about giving those who wouldn’t have the opportunities a way to do it. I’ve always been very ambitious and a self-starter, but music industry programming wasn’t available at any of my universities or those around it. Well Dunn was a saving grace. It was what I wanted to do and the perfect way to establish the groundwork for my career. I would not be where I am without Well Dunn and Nancy, Chris and Deb’s help,” says Chris.


Well Dunn has helped hundreds of students like Chris through its internship and mentorship programs. But as Jacque reminds them, what they do with those opportunities is up to them.

“It’s up to the individual. We’re here to open the door, but you’ve got to walk the walk. Someone opened the door for me long ago and I thank them every time. They made my career. At Well Dunn, we have the ability to open those doors for others. If they step through and shine, they will have their career made for them,” says Jacque.


We look forward to continuing to follow the careers of Chris and other alums of Well Dunn as they find their place in the industry that Emily loved.


To get involved with Well Dunn as a student, a company looking to hire students, or to make a donation, visit welldunn.org

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