About SMPA

Savage Mountain Punk Arts is an organization dedicated to the role of punk arts in a variety of media (most notably music, visual arts, fashion, and literature) in Appalachian culture from the 1970s to today in a regional, national, and international context. This includes, but is not limited to, the presentation and exhibition of punk arts, educational efforts about the broader cultural importance of punk, and support for the creation and distribution of new works.


    • To promote punk arts in their various incarnations, including the creation and exhibition of new work, and to support artists around the region;
    • To develop a historical perspective of punk culture in Western Maryland and the surrounding region, and place it in the context of greater Appaclahian, national and international movements;
    • To explore the tradition of punk in Appalachia, and to explore the direct connection between folk traditions and punk’s DIY attitude;
    • To work with arts, educational, and civic organizations to place punk arts within broader cultural and counter-cultural movements and to broaden the audience for punk artists in all media.

Gerry LaFemina

President, Executive Board Member

Gerry LaFemina is the founder and promoter of the Savage Mountain Punk Festival. He’s also a Professor of English at Frostburg State University, where he's taught since 2004, and the author of numerous books of poetry, fiction, and essays. A noted educator and arts activist, LaFemina’s served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), the Allegany Arts Council, and FrostburgFirst, of which he was President 2017-2018. A punk and ska musician since 1983, having played with numerous bands including Tom Collins and the Cocktail Shakers, The Furious Hours, and The Downstrokes, he was director of the Frostburg Center for Literary Arts from 2003 to 2016, working on literary arts outreach, education, and community building. He’s used that skill set since then to promote Savage Mountain shows and the literary and punk arts in Western Maryland and beyond.

Mercedes Hettich

Mercedes Hettich

Vice-President, Executive Board Member

Mercedes Hettich became the Assistant Director of the Savage Mountain Punk Festival in 2018. As a Media Writer for Xerox and Founder of Professional Leigh Services, she manages the public relations of the festival via marketing strategies and social media management. Hettich learned an eye for design, project innovation, and team management through her years as former Editor In Chief of The Globe (Germantown) and The Gryphon. Organizing the Write Now Series with the Frostburg State University Center For Literary Arts, Mercedes believes in using community services to empower local artists. Her most recent project, The Pastry Punk, cultivates punk ideals by selling home baked goods and donating the proceeds to underfunded organizations. 


Joe Jessen

Treasurer, Executive Board Member, Technical Director

A native of New York City, Joe has always had a passion for music, theatre and the arts. Creating and performing were central to Joe’s upbringing.  In college Joe also developed another passion for community service, joining and leading a chapter of a national service fraternity.  Joe has held a board member position in his synagogue for two terms, where he focused efforts on expanding the youth programs in the community.  A seasoned technology business professional and owner, Joe has led organizations to embrace innovations that result in scalability and financial sustainability while supporting Social Impact initiatives.  


Robin Summerfiedl

Secretary, Executive Board Member

Robin Summerfield has deep roots in the people and traditions of the Allegheny Mountain region of Maryland and West Virginia. He completed undergraduate study in Political Science at Frostburg State University and earned a Master of Social Work with concentration on rural practice and organizing from West Virginia University. His professional background includes working as a professional chef and commercial pilot as well as experience in social work, community organizing, nonprofit leadership, and political campaigning. Since 2007, he has served as Western Maryland Field Representative to U.S. Senator Ben Cardin. He has previously served as President of the Maryland Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, as Secretary of Mountainside Baroque, and as a member of the Executive Board of the Allegany County Branch of the NAACP.  He currently serves as President of the Cumberland Scottish Rite Foundation, Secretary of the Cumberland Masonic Temple, Inc., and as a member of the Community Trust Foundation Advisory Council and NAACP Community Relations Board.  He has been a member of the Maryland State Democratic Central Committee since 2010 and was elected as a Delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. 
Robin discovered his passion for music listening to hand me down recordings of everything from classical to jazz, country, blues, and rock-n-roll.  With his first musical instruments – a Conn spinet organ and vintage Stella acoustic and Kent electric guitars – he mingled formal training in the works of Bach with self-study using the Mel Bay guitar method.  By middle school, Robin had heard the siren call of hard rock, punk, and new wave and he has played guitar in bands ever since. 


Jacqueline Palasia

Board Member, Corporate Sponsor

Jacqueline Palasia has been the business owner and practicing orthodontist at Palasia Orthodontics in Frostburg, MD since 2008. She has 8 full time employees that she manages in addition to treating 60+ patients a day. Before starting her business, she travelled the world while serving 13 years on active duty as a dentist, then orthodontist in the United States Navy leaving at the rank of Commander. During her time in the Navy, she spent 7 years in various leadership positions such as department head and clinical director. Before the Navy, she attended the University of Pittsburgh for her undergraduate and dental degrees and graduated number one in her dental school class. After working as a dentist for 7 years in the Navy, she decided to pursue a Master’s Degree in Orthodontics at WVU school of Dentistry. She is committed to bringing cultural events to our area and sponsors the Savage Mountain Punk Festival annually. She grew up listening to punk rock in the 1980’s and is married to Ron Morrison, who sings for a local punk band. Together, their blended family has 5 children. 


Ron Morrison

Board Member

Ron Morrison Is a retired railroad engineer for CSX who has been involved in the punk scene since the early 80’s. He grew up in Dunbar, a small town in Pennsylvania where he witnessed the horrors of racism, sexism and homophobia firsthand.  He decided at an early age to rebel against these ideals.  He formed a punk band in high school and has been a lead singer in bands to this day 


Michael Andrew

Board Member, Graphic Designer

Michael Fowler, AKA Mike Ghost, is a professional graphic designer, visual artist, sci-fi/horror/comic book enthusiast, and lifelong West Virginian. For the last several years he's been the principal designer of Savage Mountain Punk promotional materials, as well as the designer of t-shirts, record covers, and various other materials for numerous bands. He's also a musician who fronts Ghost Road and plays bass in Black Hole Zion as well as made a variety of cameos in various regional acrss. As Cool Johnny Cool, he co-hosts the Cursed Earth Podcast with the Heavy Metal Kid. He's a firm believer in the superiority of Sheetz over Wawa, the sound quality of vinyl, and the power of pumpkin spice.


Tanika Henry

Board Member, Resident Sound Designer

Originally from Baltimore, Tanika Henry is an Instrumentalist and Audio Engineer with a Bachelor's Degree in Music Management from Frostburg State University. She has performed throughout Maryland and DC in small venues, musicals and classical recitals, community events, holiday celebrations. Tanika has also been involved in event planning for Cumberland Pride and New Mind Fest. She has mixed live sound for MCCA, FSU, Palace Theatre, Embassy Theatre, Dante's Bar, DC Beer Fest, and is currently a freelance audio engineer in the DC area.  


Carrie Palaisa Tajc

Carrie Tajc grew up in Uniontown, Pennsylvania and had a relatively normal childhood until she turned 10. That year, her older sister gave her the cassette tape Raw Power by The Stooges. Needless to say, that tape was played until it was worn out. She then started to buy every Stooges-influenced record that was available at the local National Record Mart. Immediately after graduating from high school, she left Uniontown for Pittsburgh. Incidentally, at that time,  the Pittsburgh punk scene was  considered one of the best Punk scenes in the country. She spent most nights going to see many local punk bands such as The Ultimatics, Mud City Manglers, Sci Fi Idols, Creeps, Submachine, Aus Rotten, Hucklebucks and Bad Genes. 25 years later, she still spends many nights seeing the veteran Pittsburgh punk bands, as well as newer bands such as Royal Honey, The Cheats, Middle Finger. She’s committed to making sure punk rock remains around Appalachia for that 10 year old picking up Raw Power for the first time today.

Gabriella S

Gabriella Strait


Gabriella Strait is an English major at Frostburg State University. She is also an aspiring author of dark fantasy, a budding poet, and a lifelong fan of punk. In her spare time she likes to put off working on her book by picking up other smaller projects like learning how to play the ukulele, reading every book she can find, and playing video games.