Scott Dunn – biography

American conductor Scott Dunn has led the Atlanta Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, BBC Concert Orchestra and Singers, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Orchestre Nationale de France, Pittsburgh Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Vienna Radio Orchestra (RSO), the St Petersburg (Russia) Philharmonic, Sydney Symphony Orchestra and many other distinguished ensembles. Dunn, a former assistant to Lukas Foss and a one-time student of Byron Janis, has been the Associate Conductor of the LA Philharmonic’s Hollywood Bowl Orchestra since 2012.

Noteworthy recent appearances include the premiere of Michael Giacchino’s STAR TREK BEYOND live with the Seattle Symphony and Pixar’s RATATOUILLE with the San Diego Symphony; Scott Dunn conducts Richard Rodney Bennett/Total Immersion at London’s Barbican with singer Claire Martin, the BBC Concert Orchestra and Singers in a live BBC 3 broadcast including new orchestrations by Dunn; the LA Phil’s world premiere of Dunn’s live orchestral adaptation of REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE at Disney Hall; Danny Elfman’s Music from the films of Tim Burton (with additional orchestrations by Dunn) at the Sydney Opera House, Atlanta Symphony, San Diego Symphony and elsewhere; Sondheim and Jazz Side by Side with pianist Bill Charlap, Ann Hampton Callaway and others at the 92nd Street Y, UC Berkeley and Disney Hall; Tony-winning singer Sutton Foster with the Atlanta Symphony; Wynonna, David Foster and Leslie Odom Jr. with the San Diego Symphony; Disney’s FANTASIA with the Seattle Symphony and with the RSO at the Konzerthaus in Vienna; Elvis Costello and Ben Folds with the LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl; symphonic concerts with Phish front-man and guitarist Trey Anastasio with the LA Phil, Atlanta, Colorado, Oregon, Pittsburgh and Seattle symphonies; and multiple memorial concerts in New York, London and elsewhere for the late Sir Richard Rodney Bennett featuring American and world premieres of works by Bennett, Nico Muhly and arrangements by Dunn.

Also a distinguished pianist and orchestrator, Dunn is a noted advocate for American and contemporary music and has a special passion for film and so-called crossover composers – ranging from George Gershwin and Vernon Duke to Leonard Rosenman and Danny Elfman. His advocacy can be traced to his late friend, orchestration-mentor and sometime duo-piano partner, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, who encouraged Dunn to explore music outside the usual classical canon. Through Bennett, Dunn discovered the concert music of songwriter and composer Vernon Duke (aka Vladmir Dukelsky). In 1999 he orchestrated and premiered Duke’s ‘lost’ Piano Concerto in C in Dunn’s Carnegie Hall début with Dennis Russell Davies and the American Composers Orchestra.  Subsequently Dunn continued to reconstruct, champion and record Duke’s neglected output. In 2006 he recorded the piano concerto in Moscow for Naxos, along with Duke’s Cello Concerto andHomage to Boston. In 2011 he reconstructed and conducted the Russian premiere Duke’s ORPHIC TRILOGY (The End of Saint Petersburg – Oratorio, Dedicaces and Epitaph – for Diaghilev) at the Philharmonia in St Petersburg. In 2012, he edited The Vernon Duke Songbook Vol 1 for Hal Leonard. In 2015, he recorded in Vienna The Duke Violin Concerto and Complete Works for Violin with violinist Elmira Darvarova, the RSO and Dunn as conductor and pianist. In 2016, he conducted for PS Classics the cast recording of a ‘new’ Vernon Duke musical, MISIA, based on the life of Parisian muse and Diaghilev confidant Misia Sert – with music of Vernon Duke arranged and adapted by Dunn, book and lyrics by Barry Singer and orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick.

Born and raised in Iowa, Dunn was making piano concerto appearances with Midwestern orchestras by age twelve. In five semesters and on full merit scholarship, he graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in music and a Phi Beta Kappa key from the University of Iowa. Dunn continued music studies at the Manhattan School of Music (Masters), Aspen Festival and School (Collaborative Fellow) and the University of Southern California. Dunn’s teachers have included John Simms, Brooks Smith and Byron Janis (piano); Lukas Foss and Jorge Mester (conducting); Leonard Rosenman, Ludmila Ulehla and Sir Richard Rodney Bennett (composition and orchestration). Though he does not practice medicine, Dunn also earned an MD, Board Certification in Ophthalmology and Fellowship in the American College of Surgeons during an seven year hiatus from the stage. He restarted his concert career in 1991 with an LA début solo recital which caused the LA Times to extol Dunn’s ”… abundance of technique and musicality. Clearly born to play the piano.” In 1999, Lukas Foss gave him his first professional conducting post as Associate Music Director for Foss’ Music Festival of the Hamptons. Dunn worked with Foss for four years and then subsequently held posts at Glimmerglass Opera and Pittsburgh Opera. In 2007, John Mauceri invited him to the conducting staff of the LA Philharmonic’s Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and in 2012 was named Associate Conductor.

Of his remarkable musicianship, one New York critic noted  “He is a conductor of great promise, a pianist of note, and a sensitive and intelligent artist. All of these elements came together to give the audience an experience closer to heaven than most of us will get in this lifetime.”