DulaFest to honor late ETSU professor, benefit local charities


Music was a big part of Chris Dula’s life. 

When he wasn’t in a lecture hall at East Tennessee State University, Dula loved being on the stage, guitar in hand. He recruited dozens of local musicians for his band project, Kryss Dula & Friends, where he always told audiences the band’s only goal was to have fun.

Dula died earlier this year after battling brain cancer for a year and a half. This weekend, two fellow musicians are continuing his charitable legacy through a music festival.

Joey Tucciarone and Zach Ross began organizing the event in Dula’s memory a few months ago. Ross was one of many local musicians to share the stage in Dula’s project, and Dula guided Tucciarone though his graduate studies as a psychology student at ETSU. 

The idea that started out as a one-night show bloomed into a two-day festival. Tucciarone said he and Ross found that the community’s interest expanded beyond a one-night performance.

“Chris was a musician from jump, that was a huge part of his life, and it was something that he spoke about often and that he celebrated,” Tucciarone said. “His relationship with music, I think, speaks volumes to who he was as a person.”

Throughout his life, Dula advocated for charity. His “Battling Brain Cancer” vlogs always included a pitch for his autobiography, “Experiments in Life,” and he always mentioned that he donated the proceeds various charities. 

Door sales for Dulafest will be split between two of Dula’s designated charities – the American Cancer Society of Northeast Tennessee and Family Promise of Johnson City.

“When he passed away in January, I think for a lot of people, myself included, it was just this irreconcilable pain and loss and grief,” Tucciarone said. “What better way to honor and celebrate him and promote some healing than to put together a (festival)? Getting some people that have played with him and bring everyone together for a night of celebration and music and do it for charity because that’s exactly what he would want.”

Dulafest will kick off at The Willow Tree Coffeehouse and Music Room in downtown Johnson City on Saturday from 7 p.m. to midnight and will continue from 2 to 8 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is a minimum $10 donation at the door. Only cash will be accepted for the cover. 

The lineup on Saturday includes The Undowners Daniel Couper, BIG Son and Us, If, and Tucciarone will take the stage on Sunday along with Beth Snapp, Buffalo Fiasco, Magus & the Movers and A Great Disaster. 

This will be the first annual Dulafest of what Tucciarone said he hopes will be an annual tradition.

“I think in a lot of ways, the purpose of this festival is to carry that legacy on,” he said. “We’re celebrating him, and we’re continuing that mission to use music to help people.” 

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