SANTA CRUZ — It was her wish being fulfilled when Santa Cruz singer/songwriter Tess Dunn, just 14, recorded her first album “Darling Just Walk” in February 2009.
When she was granted a wish through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening health conditions, Dunn knew what her heart desired.
“My wish was to go to Los Angeles and record my CD with my musical mentors
,” she said. “I recorded six songs there. That was the beginning of my being a musician and a performer. I was so happy. The top wishes are usually Disneyland and shopping sprees. They had never done this one before.”
Born with cystic fibrosis, an incurable life-threatening disease which causes progressive lung damage, Dunn has overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to achieve her dreams of launching her singing career.
At age 6 she was additionally diagnosed with epilepsy and then with diabetes at age 11.
“The diabetes is a secondary condition to the CF,” she said. “The epilepsy is just a random strike of lightening. It probably seems very difficult to manage all three, but since I’ve been going through my health regimen for so many years, it’s not that difficult any more. Once you do something so often, you become accustomed to it.”
The spunky 18-year-old started playing piano when she was just 5. She was writing songs by age 11 and performing at 13.
“I realized no one else would know how I wanted to sing my songs, so I came out of my shell and started singing them myself,” she said.
Dunn writes her alternative pop rock music about a variety of topics.
“But since I’m an 18-year-old girl, I take a stronger interest in the love aspect of my life,” she said.
Dunn performs throughout California and has opened for Iris DeMent, Karla Bonoff, Ari Shine and Adrienne Pierce.
“I’ve performed on the Vans Warped Tour for four years in the San Francisco Bay Area,” she said.
Dunn appeared recently at at Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz for the release of her second album “Honesty Box.” At a Jan. 12 show at Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz, Dunn opened for her long-time mentor Nina Storey.
“Nina has been my mentor for 12 years,” said Dunn. “It was such an honor to open for her. I’ve looked up to her so much and I finally reached the point where I’m opening for her at a show. It was amazing.”
When she’s not singing or writing music, Dunn is currently a freshman at CSUMB studying human communications.
Helping others and giving back to her community are high on Dunn’s priorities. In addition to working to help with cystic fibrosis research, she is passionate about a local cause, Grind Out Hunger, and helps with other causes as well.
“I’m very big on giving back to the community,” she said. “I love helping others.”
Dunn’s next show will be March 10 when she is opening for Cruzmatik at Moe’s Alley for a fundraiser to benefit Grind Out Hunger.
“I have support from my family and friends continuously with my health and with my music,” she said. “I’m very lucky to have the family I do. They’re always by my side. I try to remain positive because if I were negative it wouldn’t do me any good.”
For more information about Tess Dunn, check out her website www.tessdunn.com.