Dan Stern was born in 1973 in London to South African parents. As a teenager he studied classical composition with Roger Redgate, Malcolm Singer, and then, when reading Music at Cambridge University, Alexander Goehr and Robin Holloway.
After graduating he went to South Africa where he played piano with many musicians on the Johannesburg scene. In 1998 he returned to London to study politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies. After hearing Michael Brecker at Ronnie Scotts in November 1999, Dan decided to take the plunge into jazz, and searched out Dave Liebman to study with. After many years of study with Liebman and various small groups and gigs in London, a meeting with Tim Garland prompted him to explore in jazz his compositional background.