Dave Rempis was born in Wellesley, Massachusetts on March 24th, 1975. He began his musical studies at the age of 8, inspired by a family friend who played clarinet in local Greek bands, and by Zoot, of the Muppets Band, to pick up saxophone. During high school he performed in his town, district, and all-state bands and wind ensembles, as well as in a jazz combo at a local music school.
In 1993, Rempis began a degree in classical saxophone at Northwestern University with Frederick Hemke. Finding this environment stifling, Rempis quickly ditched the music degree to pursue studies in anthropology and ethnomusicology. As part of these studies, he spent a year at the International Centre for African Music and Dance at the University of Ghana, Legon, studying African music and ethnomusicology. He also continued to perform with many different types of groups, ranging from highlife and reggae bands while in Ghana, to jazz, free jazz, funk, and contemporary music ensembles at home. He graduated from Northwestern in 1997.