Mark Dunn was born and raised in Philadelphia, and took to the piano at an early age, beginning lessons at age seven. By the sixth grade he was composing, and he studied classical music at the Bryn Mawr Conservatory of Music, though he had developed an interest in jazz by his teens. He also studied jazz harmony and improvisation with Jimmy Amadie and formed his own jazz band, featuring a young Kurt Rosenwinkel, in high school. Later, he took music courses at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He played in jazz bands in the area, taught music, and played on cruise ships. His first album, Mark Dunn, was a jazz date, but he became more interested in Celtic, new age, and particularly Caribbean music, learning to speak Spanish and Portuguese as he spent more time in Central and South America. A 1997 backpacking trip through Central America, on which he took a pennywhistle as a composition tool, inspired his second album, Return to Peace, subtitled "A Celtic Journey Through Central America," which he pressed up for sale at his shows in 2004 and released formally to retail in June 2005.
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