Mark Snow was born in Brooklyn, the son of a professional percussionist and a kindergarten teacher who had a definite love for blues piano. As a youth, Snow learned piano and drums, then fell in love with the oboe. An aficionado of Baroque and Renaissance music, Snow entered the New York Music and Art School, where he befriended composer Michael Kamen, another oboe fan, with whom he would be roommates for several years at Juilliard. Studying as broad a variety of music as possible, Snow gradually became fascinated with contemporary popular music, going on to form the New York Rock 'N Roll Ensemble with Kamen in 1968, the band signing almost immediately to Atco. The band was notable for a mix of rock and classical elements, gathering attention for their live shows. After five albums for Atco and Columbia, the band broke up.