Scott Dunn – biography

American conductor Scott Dunn has an affinity for American and contemporary music with a special passion for film and so-called crossover composers — ranging from George Gershwin and Vernon Duke to Leonard Bernstein and Danny Elfman.  He has appeared with the Atlanta Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, BBC Concert Orchestra and Singers, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, 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. Since 2012 he has served as Associate Conductor of the LA Philharmonic’s Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

Noteworthy recent appearances include Scott Dunn conducts Richard Rodney Bennett/Total Immersion at London’s Barbican with with singer Claire Martin, the BBC Concert Orchestra and Singers in a wide-ranging live BBC 3 broadcast including new orchestrations of Bennett jazz songs for Martin by Dunn; the world premiere at Disney Hall with the LA Phil of Dunn’s live orchestral adaptation of Leonard Rosenman’s brilliant score for Warner Brothers REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE; Danny Elfman’s Music from the films of Tim Burton (with additional orchestrations by Dunn) at the Sydney Opera House, the Atlanta Symphony, San Diego Symphony and in Latin America; 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, Jonathan Dove’s MANSFIELD PARK with UCLA opera and numerous pops concert appearances with the San Diego Symphony, Atlanta Symphony and elsewhere.

Other recent projects include Disney’s FANTASIA with the Seattle Symphony and with the RSO at the Konzerthaus in Vienna; The Duke Violin Concerto and the Complete Violin Works of Vernon Duke for Uhrlicht Audiovisual; the cast recording of a ‘new’ Vernon Duke musical MISIA (with music arranged and adapted by Dunn) for PS Classics; 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; Il Volo at the Greek Theatre in LA; a Serge Gainbourg tribute concert at the Hollywood Bowl with Beck, Sean Lennon, Lulu Gainbourg and others; an Atlanta Symphony gala concert with Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers; work on the Boston Symphony presentations of Bernstein’s CANDIDE as well as on Gershwin’s 1935 ORIGINAL PRODUCTION VERSION of PORGY AND BESS (which Dunn helped recreate); and publication by Universal Editions/Belmont of Dunn’s arrangments of Arnold Schoenberg’s Four Brettl-Lieder (for voice and chamber orchestra) and Notturno (for string quartet and piano).

A former student of the great Byron Janis, Dunn has performed since childhood as a piano soloist appearing in many of the world’s greatest venues. He is known for his performances of Ives and has championed the works of his mentors Richard Rodney Bennett, Lukas Foss and Leonard Rosenman. A true ‘composer’s pianist’, he has also premiered and/or recorded works by John Adams, Franco Alfano, Irwin Bazelon, Elliot Carter, Vernon Duke, R.I. Gordon, John Harbison, Daron Hagen, Peter Lieberson, Nico Muhly, Roger Reynolds, Ned Rorem and many others.

As a ‘composer’s conductor’, Dunn will premier Chaplin’s Tramp – a concerto by Daron Hagen for piano, orchestra and film written for Dunn. He recently premiered Roger Bourland’s opera LA PALOMA Y LA RUISEÑOR (with additional orchestrations and Spanish adaptations by Dunn); for Mohammed Fairouz, the NY premieres of Audenesque and Sadat and the acclaimed Bridge Records recording of the opera SUMEIDA’S SONG; a world premier recording of unknown choral works by Leon Kirchner; the west coast premiere of Phillip Glass’s Another Look at Harmony Part IV (“Dunn conducted almost as if he were in the trance of sacred Bruckner”.. LA TIMES); the LA premiere of the fiendishly difficult Ligeti Piano Concerto with pianist Gloria Cheng; and, finally, 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 and Nico Muhly.

Dunn’s wide-ranging musicality can be traced to his late friend, orchestration-mentor and sometime duo piano partner, Richard Rodney Bennett, who encouraged Dunn to explore music outside the usual classical canon. Through Bennett, Dunn discovered the concert music of famed songwriter Vernon Duke (aka Vladmir Dukelsky). Dunn has since reconstructed, presented and recorded much of Duke’s neglected concert output. 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 (and subsequently recorded it for Naxos). In 2011 he reconstructed and conducted the Russian premiere Duke’s ORPHIC TRILOGY (The End of St Petersburg Oratorio, Dedicases and Epitaphe (for Diaghilev) at the Philhamonia 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.

He studied music at the Manhattan School, Aspen Festival and School, University of Southern California and University of Iowa. Though he does not practice medicine, Dunn also earned an MD, Board Certification in Ophthalmology and Fellowship in the American College of Surgeons. His professional conducting career began in 1999 when Lukas Foss appointed him Associate Music Director for the Music Festival of the Hamptons. He subsequently help posts at Glimmerglass Opera and Pittsburgh Opera. In 2007, he joined the conducting staff of the LA Philharmonic’s Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and in 2010 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.”