Link: University of Iowa

Information About

Alumni Interview

Scott Dunn, M.D.

Scott Dunn, M.D.

A Two Track Virtuoso

75BM, 81MD
Conducting Assistant to Maestro John Mauceri
The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra/LA Philharmonic Association, Los Angeles, CA

" I’m never completely happy with one thing or another...I have to have both sides of my head going at once to feel fulfilled."

A knack for seeing patterns, an ability to temper intellect with intuition, and a good deal of manual dexterity have served Scott Dunn, MD, well throughout his career. Throughout both his careers, in fact.

Dunn balances passions for music and medicine as a part-time ophthalmologist in Los Angeles and an acclaimed pianist and conductor in New York and around the world. Today he makes indulging two loves sound easy, but it hasn’t always been so.

" I went to the UI in 1972 on a full-ride music scholarship, taking pre-med courses on the side," the Eagle Grove, Iowa, native recalled. "Then I went to New York, studied at Julliard and got onto the competition circuit before I became completely frustrated. I shelved the idea of a music career."

Looking back, Dunn attributes his early disillusionment to the doubts of a small-town Iowa boy, however talented, among sophisticated and connected East Coast kids. Medicine and maturity ultimately would set the stage for his second chance at music nearly 20 years later.

Dunn completed pre-med study at the University of Southern California and returned to the UI for medical school, graduating in 1981, then did his residency and a research fellowship back at USC and entered private practice. He continued to play and study music throughout his medical training, though he’d largely lost interest in public performance.

That changed once he presented a charity concert to raise funds for a surgical mission to Guatemala. An L.A. Times critic gave Dunn’s performance a rave, emboldening the pianist to enter—and win—a couple of competitions. The successes rekindled his interest in professional music, and in 1994 he took a hiatus from medicine.

" I was playing at a high level, but when I left L.A., I didn’t really know how bad my odds were," he said, describing his return to New York to study orchestration and composition and make himself known. Fortunately, his luck was good—incredibly good. He debuted at Carnegie Hall in 1999 and performed there again in 2001. He’s also made numerous commercial recordings and been associate music director for the Music Festival of the Hamptons and assistant conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

His music career established, Dunn felt drawn back to medicine. "I have a big concert every month, sometimes two a month, but there’s a lot of downtime in between," he said, so last fall he returned to practice. His schedule whips him back and forth across the country, with frequent stops in Iowa City on family business, but he wouldn’t have it any other way, at least for now.

" I’m never completely happy with one thing or another," Dunn said. "I have to have both sides of my head going at once to feel fulfilled."

For more about Dunn’s music career, visit his Web site at


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