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Music alumnus pens New York Times column on AIDS cure

From a music career to CEO of an AIDS research nonprofit, alumnus Kevin Robert Frost describes his journey in a recent column for The New York Times.

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Kevin Robert Frost

Kevin Robert Frost Photo: Kevin Tachman, NYTimes.com

Last month, alumnus Kevin Robert Frost, B.M. ’99, wrote “A Singer’s Search for an AIDS Cure,” a column that appeared in The New York Times’ jobs section. In it, he talks about how his career path led him from music (he majored in vocal performance) to AIDS research.

Frost is the chief executive of amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research and holds a position on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA), which provides policy recommendations on the U.S. government’s response to the AIDS epidemic. World AIDS Day is Dec. 1.

An excerpt from Frost’s column in The New York Times:

A friend once said that if one person has AIDS it’s a tragedy, but when more than 33 million people are infected globally it’s just a statistic. For me the epidemic is personal; it’s not abstract. I’ve lost too many friends to AIDS. But I remain optimistic.

Below Frost describes his experiences as a University of Texas at Austin student.

Why did you choose to remain in Texas for college instead of pursuing Juilliard?

At the time, I had many scholarships to choose from, including one from the music department at UT.  I ultimately decided to stay in Texas for a few reasons. First, I was a product of the Texas public school system. After visiting Juilliard and going through the audition process, I felt pretty certain that I was not ready for the conservatory lifestyle.  I felt doing my undergraduate work in Texas would give me time to grow and mature and still left open the opportunity for conservatory work at the graduate school level. Another reason was the quality of the education I knew I would receive in the UT system. I was deeply impressed by the professors and their commitment to the students. I knew that I was going to gain the kind of experience at UT that would serve me well when I was ready to transition to the big apple.

What organizations were you involved in on campus?

I practically lived in the music school and the drama school. The opera department, with Professor DeSimone was where I performed in productions such as Benjamin Britten’s “Albert Herring.” And in the drama department I performed in a joint production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd.” I sang with the Longhorn Singers under Dr. Morris Beachy for at least one semester and I was a member of the music fraternity Phi Mu Alpha.

Which professors did you study with?

Obviously, Dr. Robert DeSimone in the opera department and Leonard Johnson was my voice teacher. But my favorite instructor was without question Charles Roeckle. As I recall, he taught a course in the German Art Song which I absolutely loved. He was a wonderful and inspiring instructor and I enjoyed his courses more than any other when I was at the university.

What are you and your organization doing for World AIDS day?

World AIDS Day is Dec. 1.
On campus, a student organization fair, conference and free HIV screenings commemorated the day. View the event listings on the Know Events Calendar.

As you can imagine, this is an extraordinarily busy week for me and my organization. Last year President Obama appointed me to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA). In this capacity I, along with the rest of the council, are charged with providing advice to the administration and the Secretary of Health and Human Services on strategies for addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The President will be making a major speech in Washington and the PACHA has worked hard to see that he has our best advice on how to address the challenges.

Furthermore, at amfAR, we are intensely focused on the research which we believe will ultimately bring us a cure for this disease. We held a symposium here in New York and gathered some of the brightest scientists working in this field to outline the scientific and technological challenges to achieving a cure. It was a very interesting symposium and there is significant optimism that we can achieve a cure for this disease in our lifetime. Finally, with the help of amfAR’s Chairman Kenneth Cole, we will be unveiling a new version of the red-ribbon — the long time symbol of people living with the disease. MTV will be rolling out the campaign and we’re excited about the ability to continue to raise awareness through this effort.