Musician and Educator Larry Lapin Retires from Frost School of Music

June 05, 2013 — Coral Gables — Over the past year the Frost School of Music has commemorated many milestones including a new building groundbreaking, the expansion of programs, and many students have won awards and competitions and graduated to begin their professional careers. 2013 is also the year for the retirement of several legendary faculty members whose passion and dedication to improving music education at the collegiate level helped build the reputation of the Frost School.

One of the Frost School’s musical legends, Larry Lapin, professor and program director, Jazz Vocal Performance began his career at the University of Miami School of Music as a student. He earned his degrees in Music Theory/Composition and was invited back to teach in 1968. He is a pianist, composer, and arranger in addition to being an educator.

“After spending 45 years at University of Miami, I’ve had projects that I’ve been unable to complete while working as a full time professor, so I’ve decided to retire. There are recording projects, and music I want to write, and all kinds of things that I’d like to have the free time to do. Frankly, leaving is a big decision, and I’ve got very mixed emotions about it. I’m heartbroken about leaving the kids. I believe I’ve got the perfect job. I get up in the morning and go to a place where I make music with young, beautiful, talented, intelligent people all day, five days a week, sometimes more. What can be better than that? But all good things come to an end, and hopefully, I’ll keep in contact with young people by participating in events, festivals and clinics,” said Lapin.

In 1968 Lapin began his career as an adjunct professor at UM. He left for a brief stint to teach at the University of Colorado of Denver for a year in 1978-79, but returned to UM a year later after proposing a new Jazz Vocal degree program to then Dean William “Bill” Lee, who loved the idea. In addition to starting the Jazz Vocal program in 1980, Lapin began co-directing the Chamber Singers, later called UM Singers, with the late Dr. Lee Kjelson the same year, and they continued that effort for nine years.

Lapin believes his legacy is one that other people will decide after he’s left UM. He hopes that some of the things he established over his 33 years teaching in the program will continue. Among many of Lapin’s teaching highlights include the invitations to perform at various national conventions, and the 26 DownBeat Student Awards he and his ensembles won over 22 years, plus the individual students who have attained prominence. Lapin recalls receiving the Phillip Frost Award for Excellence in Teaching and Scholarship in 2009 as one of the most gratifying moments.

Lapin is also proud of the fact that somewhere between 80 to 90% of the students who have graduated from the Jazz Vocal program are working in the business as professional musicians. His influence as an educator extends to former students such as multiple Grammy Award winning superstars Jon Secada; Lari White in Nashville, who won three Grammys in Country music; jazz vocalist Carmen Lundy; and singer-songwriter-musician Raul Midón. Lapin is also proud of former students teaching in higher education including recording artist Kate Reid, formerly at Cypress Community College, Los Angeles who was selected by a faculty search committee to replace Lapin in fall 2013 as director of the Jazz Vocal Program at the Frost School of Music; Christine Guter, director of vocal jazz at California State University Long Beach, and Jennifer Barnes, director of of Vocal Jazz Studies at University of North Texas.

Larry Lapin was honored by hundreds of alumni, students and faculty at a farewell concert he directed on April 14 in Maurice Gusman Concert Hall. At a pre-concert reception, Dean Shelly Berg announced that friends and alumni had come together and collectively contributed over $100,000 to establish the Larry Lapin Endowed Music Scholarship in his honor.

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