By Janine Murphy, PASS Region I PR Committee Member
Most in PASS know Mark Dunlap as a Region I assistant, the Chapter NG3 president or the National Legislative Committee chair, but many members might be surprised to know about his talent as a musician. An early love of music in his youth came about for a couple of reasons, namely watching his older brother, who was fluent in guitar and went on to become a professional guitar teacher at a well-known music shop in Holyoke, Mass. “Plus,” he added with a laugh, “I was lousy at sports when I was a teenager and noticed that having success with the guitar helped me get noticed by some girls I liked!”
Dunlap was hired by the FAA at the Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center in 1986, and transferred a few years later to the Technical Support Office (TSO), now referred to as the Nashua Technical Support Center (TSC) with detached staff, at Bradley Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn. He joined PASS in 1994 and, when he wasn’t working hard within the labor organization to further the rights of members, Dunlap would wind down off duty as a double bass player with jazz bands in western Massachusetts. His love of his music spurred him to take it a few steps further, where he became centrally involved in the founding and planning of the Holyoke Latin Jazz Festival, an all-day event where a small admission fee allows a music lover to sample and listen to various bands in a theater or auditorium and enjoy the sounds of Latin jazz and salsa. This yearly festival occurs on Columbus Day weekend. “It brings a lot of different members of the community together,” said Dunlap. This past year, more than 250 people from diverse backgrounds attended. “I always get a lot of satisfaction from the growing popularity of this event,” he said. PASS has been a proud sponsor of the Holyoke Latin Jazz Festival, which was just awarded a Gold Star Award from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. “Only a handful of these awards are given throughout the state, so this was a true honor,” said Dunlap. Dunlap also organizes other music events in the area, such as the Viva Great Holyoke Block Party, and assists with Celebrate Holyoke and Next Stop Holyoke.
So, if you’re trying to track Mark Dunlap down and he’s not jetting somewhere in the country on behalf of the union, all you have to do is follow the sounds of jazz music to western Massachusetts. There will be a good chance you’ll spot one of the hardest-working men in PASS, shredding on his double bass for an audience of music lovers.