History of Instrumental Music at ‘West Lab’ School

The students and faculty of the Department of Music Education and Music Therapy at the Frost School of Music have been providing instrumental music instruction for brass and winds for over 40 years at the Henry S. West Laboratory Elementary School, adjacent to the University of Miami’s Coral Gables campus. The music program was the result of an energetic educational experiment and collaboration between William F. Lee when he was dean of the UM School of Music (1964-1982) and Patricia L. Frost when she served as principal of ‘West Lab.’  Unique to the program was a groundbreaking idea: Patricia Frost insisted that every student in the school—plus their parents—and every teacher in the school—learn a musical instrument. As a result, music was incorporated into the entire curriculum, students excelled in all subjects, and West Lab became a model school with a very long waiting list.

The late faculty-composer John Kinyon was highly involved in the implementation of the music program, as was a teaching assistant named Vernon Burnsed (now professor of music education at Virginia Tech).  Their collaboration with William Lee and Patricia Frost was so successful—and positively impacted the lives of thousands of elementary school children and their families—that, even 30 years later, it inspired Phillip and Patricia Frost to become the School’s naming benefactors—one of the many reasons we proudly call ourselves the Frost School of Music.