"A heart to serve the community"—that phrase describes MerleFest volunteer Phillip Summers. Besides his devotion to serving the community at MerleFest, he works in occupational health research at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and has been on several mission trips, the longest being a ten month ministry in Belize.
Coming to MerleFest was the impetus that brought Phillip and his wife to the Wilkes area to live two years ago (they recently moved to Winston-Salem to be near his work at Wake Forest). "My college friends kept telling me how great MerleFest was, and they came for a few years before I wised up. The first time I ever came to MerleFest it was as a four-day volunteer. That was in 2002." Phillip has done pre-festival set-up, perimeter security, Watson Stage hospitality, Nancy's Gate, artist restroom, and RV camping. His favorite—pre-festival set-up.
In 2010 Phillip proved his reliability and dedication to MerleFest when he was offered his new job at Wake Forest. He responded that he had made a commitment to volunteer at MerleFest and his new supervisors graciously allowed him to fulfill that volunteer commitment.
Phillip's "heart to serve" led him to his wife who has also volunteered at MerleFest. "We met on the mission field in Ecuador, and it was love at first sight. Plus, we both liked adventure and reading. We now have a son who is too much fun at fifteen months old! He likes to go to the Home Town Opry (in North Wilkesboro), swimming and riding bikes. Pretty much anything outside makes every one of us in my family realize the splendor of the Lord's creation." Phillip enjoys running and is a US National Soccer Team fan. He also enjoys going to church.
Of MerleFest Phillip says, "I can't believe that every year MerleFest gets better. My absolute favorite is Sunday morning with Doc Watson. He is so gracious to share his faith and love for the Lord. It gives me a thrill every time to hear him sing 'What a Friend We Have in Jesus.' I have a tradition of greeting him with a joyful, loud 'Good morning, Doc' every year. I think I am four for four with a 'Good morning, son' reply from him." At MerleFest Phillip also enjoys the Nashville Bluegrass Band, Gillian Welch, The Avett Brothers, Bela Fleck, Abigail Washburn (Sparrow Quartet), and Phil Jamison who calls square dances.
Phillip has travelled so much over the ten-year life of his passport that the US Embassy in Ecuador had to augment pages for additional visas. Most recently he spent a month in Haiti where he was impressed by how singing and music is such a comfort to people stricken by the devastating earthquake.
Even though Phillip Summers has travelled the world doing good works, he settled in the home of MerleFest. "MerleFest is a fundraiser that benefits all of Wilkes County, and this is really what makes MerleFest unique. My wife and I moved to Wilkes County because we saw something special in the community, and MerleFest displayed that genuine and generous character of Wilkes. Wilkes Community College is a proud place, and for good reason. They have managed to stay relevant in a changing and globalizing economy that is very competitive. Their competitive advantage is bolstered by the innovation and quality that MerleFest embodies."
Phillip Summers and his family symbolize that "heart to serve the community" in his dedication to MerleFest and in his dedication to his faith and the world that he serves.