Following the Beat
Whether it is playing percussion for a musical at Abington Heights, Our Lady of Peace, Valley View or Scranton Prep or playing drums in his band “The Wannabees” at venues such as J.J. Bridges, Villa Maria II, Station Square or the Honky Tonk, Mark Montella does it all.
“It all started in the West Scranton High School Marching Band,” he explained, as he began to describe the evolution of his career. “I took a year off of college to work, then enrolled into Lackawanna College.”
It all changed when, one day, Cheryl Boga, the director of the University of Scranton’s campus band, saw him walking to class at Lackawanna College and told him that she wanted him to play for her.
“Tuesday nights, University of Scranton’s band, I need you at seven o’clock. See you Tuesday,” was all she said. With these words, Montella’s music career began.
“At the time, I knew nothing about drum sets, just snare drum,” Montella said, recalling a night when he was asked to fill in for a jazz drummer. “But I really wanted to help, so that’s when I first learned drum set. It was awesome.”
Montella played for a jazz duo called “The Class Act” and also spent 13 years playing for the band “Crystal Skies,” a gig he received after jumping in to help the band one evening.
Montella uncovered a new interest in scholastic music when his oldest son became a student at Newton-Ransom Elementary School. He visited an Arts Alive show; Arts Alive is a summer program that gives students the opportunity to express themselves in an artistic way.
Realizing that there was no drummer for this program, Montella accepted an invitation to participate, which led him to help coordinate an Arts Alive program at South Abington Elementary School and, eventually, all the elementary schools in the Abington Heights School District.
“The music teachers at Abington Heights have been the most motivational people I’ve ever met,” he said. “They make something out of nothing.”
Word of mouth spread about Montella’s playing and he began to branch out of the Abington Heights School District, playing percussion for productions at Holy Cross High School and at Scranton Prep.
“After making these connections with The Abingtons, it really helped with my attention to my present band, ‘The Wannabees,’” he said.
Montella strongly believes that all students should be able to have the opportunity to be educated in music, and to be able to express themselves in an artistic way.
“Every student has the ability to express themselves; so they should all have the opportunity to do so,” he said.