Beloved professorís gift to endow scholarships for band students at Carolina
The University of South Carolina School of Music has launched its capital campaign on a high note, announcing a $1 million gift -- the largest gift in the school’s history -- Thursday (Jan. 26).
And if the amount wasn’t enough to make the event pitch-perfect, Dean Tayloe Harding announced that the donor is James K. Copenhaver, USC’s popular and influential director of bands for 34 years.
Copenhaver’s gift, a bequest that will endow scholarships for USC band students, is expected to generate as much as $50,000 per year for undergraduate scholarships for students enrolled in a USC Band program.
Harding called the gift “transformative.”
"Philanthropy is essential to the success of our school, and we are deeply appreciative of every gift,” Harding said. "However, some gifts have the potential to be transformative, and this is one of those gifts. Jim Copenhaver’s generosity will ensure that more students have the opportunity to pursue a college education with band music at its heart and also will establish a means for perpetuating excellence in band music performance in a way that matters most to Jim.”
USC President Harris Pastides said Copenhaver’s devotion to students and the university is inspirational.
“As someone always awed and enthused by the quality of our music performances, and inspired by the enthusiasm of the marching band, I am delighted that Jim Copenhaver has made this major gift to the USC School of Music,” Pastides said. “His commitment will make a USC education more accessible for our talented students and, in so doing, will enrich the broader university and the community.”
Copenhaver, who was director of bands at USC from 1976-2010, said having the opportunity to work with students and develop USC’s band program has been inspirational and rewarding.
“I owe thanks to the many talented and dedicated band students through the years that enabled a representative university band program to be established and maintained at USC,” Copenhaver said. “With the ever-increasing cost of higher education, additional scholarship funding is needed to assure that students will continue to give service to the university through band participation.”
Copenhaver has taught many band directors in the state and earned the affection and respect of his former students. Atlanta lawyer Matt McCord, who was the marching band drum major from 1992 – 95, said Copenhaver’s brilliance and vision challenged students and brought out the best in them.
“There are hundreds of outstanding music teachers across the Southeast because of him,” McCord said. “He believed in us. He expected more of us than we thought we could give, and he would not settle for anything less than excellence. He set the standard.”
At USC, Copenhaver also was co-conductor of the Palmetto Concert Band. His university concert bands performed at conventions of the National Music Educators National Conference, the College Band Directors national association and the American Bandmasters Association. He was invited to join the prestigious American Bandmasters Association and also is a member the S.C. Band Directors Association Hall of Fame. He is a past president of the National Band Association and the Southern division of the College Band Directors national association.
In May 2010, Gov. Mark Sanford awarded him The Order of the Silver Crescent, the state’s highest honor for volunteer and community service to the people of South Carolina.
USC associate professor of political science Kirk Randazzo, a 1994 music graduate who played saxophone in the marching band, the jazz band and the concert band, said Copenhaver helped revolutionize marching bands in the 1970s.
“Jim Copenhaver brought national recognition to USC’s bands and established himself as a premier organizer and band director,” Randazzo said. “He had very high expectations for his students, and because of that, he expected students to do their very best every single time. If you made a mistake, he would be there to encourage and to give advice on how to do better the next time, but he always expected that you would work to improve. I would not have held the band leadership positions that I did without Jim’s guidance. He had a tremendous impact on my life.”
Copenhaver, who is single and has no children, said the band students are his family and that he hopes his gift will inspire others to support student scholarships. “I owe a lot to USC, and I hope that my estate gift will inspire my former students and friends of the Carolina Band to join this mission in the endowment of band scholarships.”
James K. Copenhaver
James K. Copenhaver became director of bands at the University of South Carolina in 1976. Under his 34-year leadership, the entire band program achieved a national reputation for its excellence.
He also conducted the University Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band and taught undergraduate and graduate classes in wind instrument techniques. The Symphonic Band performed at conferences for the South Carolina Music Educators Association, Music Educators National Conference, College Band Directors National Association, and American Bandmasters Association.
Copenhaver has served as a guest conductor, lecturer and adjudicator throughout the United States and is recognized by leading educational institutions for his accomplishments in the areas of instrumental performance and music education. He has earned the Citation of Excellence from the National Band Association, the Distinguished Service to Music Medal for Instrumental Music Education from Kappa Kappa Psi national honorary band fraternity, and both the Outstanding Bandmaster Award and Outstanding Contributor to Bands Award from the South Carolina chapter of Phi Beta Mu national bandmaster fraternity.
He was inducted into the South Carolina Band Director’s “Hall of Fame” in 2003. Copenhaver is an active member in several professional organizations within the band field, including the prestigious American Bandmasters Association. He is a past president of the National Band Association and the Southern Division of the College Band Director national association.
He is the founder and co-conductor of the Palmetto Concert Band, an adult semiprofessional concert band that has performed for state music educator conventions in both South and North Carolina, for the American Bandmasters Association Convention and for the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago on two occasions.
Copenhaver earned his bachelor’s degree and his master’s of music education at Morehead State University and completed two additional years of graduate study at Florida State University. Before joining the faculty at USC, he taught at Holmes High School in Covington, Ky., Morehead State University and Clemson University. ###
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