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Texas Tech Student-Athlete Spotlight: Wally Dunn
March 06, 2009

By Jessica Fajans
Big 12 Campus Correspondent

Basketball may have been Texas Tech guard Wally Dunn's first passion but a talent for music has expanded his interests.

The junior geology major from Midland, Texas started playing basketball when he was six years old. It was one of his favorite hobbies until he started playing the violin when he was 10.

“The guitar is my main instrument (now),” Dunn said. “I also play the piano, the mandolin and the ukulele.” 

The Dunn family has a history of sports and music. 

Two of his brothers and both sisters played basketball in high school, and one of them played in college. Dunn’s grandfather was a fiddle player and the passion for music has been passed along. Dunn’s father played the guitar in a band in college, while all his brothers and sisters either play music or sing. 

Dunn and his siblings spent their formative years in a two-step pattern. Play sports outside during the day then go inside to gather around dad to sing as he played guitar.

“We would all get together, it was a really relaxed time,” said Dunn. “That was our house growing up.”

Dunn recalled one day when his father took him to a flea market and he found his first ukulele. He was into trying new instruments and wanted to see if he could play it, as well as the guitar or violin.

“My dad pointed to it, I picked it up and started messing with it,” Dunn said. “We figured it out together, and from there I just made it up.”

He took an interest in the small instrument quickly. In his spare time he would play the ukulele and learn songs that he could play at the family’s church in Midland. The whole family took part, and it became a tradition for them to sing songs at Christmas services.

One of the more recent musical performances for Dunn was with the Tech basketball team. The squad participated in the Tech Athlete Talent Show back in January. When preparing for the show, the team relied on Dunn to be the headliner for their performance. 

Freshman center Robert Lewandowski asked Dunn to sing and play his ukulele. He sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" while the rest of the team danced around the stage.

“Everyone was really nervous,” Dunn said. “But I wasn’t, I just had this tiny little instrument. I just wanted to perform, it was a really good atmosphere.”

Dunn was also a member of the choir growing up. When he chose to play basketball for Midland College, his choir teacher couldn’t believe he wasn’t going to pursue a career in music. But his talent on the hardwood couldn’t be ignored as Dunn helped his junior college team win a national title.

“I obviously can’t go on tour because of basketball, but that’s fine.” Dunn said.

Dunn said he took voice lessons when he was 16-years-old and continued until he was a sophomore in college. He stopped when he chose to play for the Red Raiders.

Luckily, Dunn has never had to choose music over basketball. He is fortunate enough to be able to play college basketball and continue playing music on the side. 

On occasion, he performs in concert with his brother David, who lives in Oklahoma and is currently actively pursuing a music career. Dunn classifies his brothers’ music as “acoustic power pop”, kind of like a John Mayer. After this season's game with Oklahoma, the Dunn duo put on an acoustic performance at a Lubbock's Sugar Browns. 

Although the two can mostly be found playing for small crowds around the South Plains, they hope to be able to perform at bigger venues. If David's career takes off, Wally says he would like tour with his brother as backup singer and musician.
Wally Dunn understands the challenge of making a living in the music business. Thanks to his opportunity to play basketball and get an education at Texas Tech, he has a fall-back career: become a geologist and work in the oil company run by his dad and brothers.

As the Red Raiders' basketball season winds down, Dunn's schedule should open to allow him to write more songs. He says he has written about 12 acoustic songs.

And one of those songs provided a memorable event. Dunn wrote a song that he used to propose to his girlfriend of three years. That writing process, he says, was easy because he knew exactly what he wanted to say.

“It was really special,” said Dunn. “To be able to show the one I love how much I love her through a song.”

Consider it Dunn's first chart topper. The two are getting married in Lubbock this summer. 

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