Murray High grad makes his way on the world’s biggest stagesMay 30, 2022 04:48PM ● By Peri Kinder
By Peri Kinder | [email protected]
When Douglas Kinney Frost steps onto the conductor’s stand, there’s electricity in the air. His baton sparks like a wizard’s wand. When he starts the performance there’s an alchemy of music, emotion and art that creates a beautiful connection between the musicians and the audience.
The 1986 Murray High School graduate has conducted symphonies, orchestras and operas all over the world, from Moscow to Mississippi, and that feeling of collective energy still thrills him.
“There’s this wonderful vulnerability that great musicians allow each other where you bring all that you are, you bring all of your ideas and experience to that moment and you’re ready to share that, but at the same time, you’re ready to be open and humble to what other people do. When that happens, that’s when music-making is at its best,” Frost said.
“When I started thinking about music-making as manipulation of energy, then it all made sense to me. My own experience, being moved by music at any level, whether I was making it or experiencing it, is extremely palpable now.”
Frost’s journey from musician to conductor started on his grandmother’s lap. Some of his earliest memories are of sitting with her as she played and practiced music for church. When Frost was six years old, she enrolled him in piano lessons.
He studied piano for many years but discovered a passion for music written for the human voice, the perfect combination of music and text, which led him to study opera and conducting. While attending the University of Utah, his coursework included conducting the school’s orchestra. He was terrified, excited and hooked.
“The perfection of getting everything right and getting everything in tune is something you strive for,” Frost said. “It’s truly extrasensory. It’s truly a different level of vibration. I’ve experienced it too many times to doubt it, even though I tried to think myself out of thinking about music that way. I’ve had experiences that I still process that were about community coming together.”
His many roles include music director of the Opus Chamber Orchestra in Salt Lake City, the head of music staff and chorus master at Florida Grand Opera in Miami, the artistic director of Syracuse Opera, as well as residencies at conservatories and universities around the globe.
As conductor, Frost’s job is to convey the message of the performance, guiding musicians and singers to create a unified vision and experience. Three years ago, he was recruited to teach at the University of Texas at Austin. His role as a mentor was a bit overwhelming but he’s settled into his position, serving as the principal conductor at the school’s Butler Opera Center, which ranks among the top opera programs in the country. The students just completed performances of Bizet’s “Carmen” which Frost described as a “huge undertaking.”
“We hit it out of the park. I’m really proud of what we accomplished. It wasn’t perfect but the experience that was shared by the people in every performance, that positive energy and that experience is why I feel it was a huge success.”
As a teacher, Frost wants his students to understand that performance is about dedication to something big. It’s about creating a community experience where ideas evolve, where students conceive and legitimize whatever they want and learn how to make it real.
Several of his students will graduate soon. Frost said he isn’t a fan of pushing students out of the nest, where they’ll go off into the world and he might not see them again.
“That’s the part of academia they don’t tell you about,” he said. “My ego has changed. It wasn’t about me. It was about the student’s experience and their individual path. I didn’t expect to be so emotionally attached to each student’s progression.”
Frost is interested to see how the industry evolves, as art is a reflection of society. He’s curious to see how the current political landscape will affect the creation of new ideas and how the energy of music will mirror the dreams and hopes of the next generation.
“The creativity I’m seeing in small ventures is really mind-boggling and very thoughtful,” he said. “If this was just about quarter-notes and eighth-notes, I’d be less interested. If it’s about teaching and mentoring people to find who they are through dedication to a pursuit, that’s what I want.”