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School of Music


Kathleen McKinney and Brenton O’Hara receive Maxient Social Impact Award

Project Opera Camp wins a top prize from the USC Technology Incubator

Competing against business majors and others across campus, Kathleen McKinney and Brenton O’Hara took first place in the Maxient Social Impact category

Recent School of Music alumna Kathleen McKinney and USC graduate student Brenton O’Hara won a top prize from the USC Technology Incubator for their venture, Project Opera Camp. They were awarded first place in the Maxient Social Impact category in the Incubator’s Proving Ground Competition.

The USC/Columbia Technology Incubator provides nurturing and support for the development of homegrown, area companies during their critical early stages.

Rebecca Nagel, director of Spark: Carolina’s Music Leadership Laboratory, said, "Project Opera Camp is a great example of School of Music students finding innovative ways to launch their careers and serve the needs of the community."

The duo competed against 80 entrepreneurs from across the University of South Carolina, winning  $20,000 plus a $5000 affiliate membership to the USC Technology Incubator. Their venture project will promote life skills among underserved children using the arts. Plans for the pilot program in Charleston, S.C. this summer are being developed.

Project Opera Camp, based on a nonprofit model, will offer tuition-free camp and after-school programs targeting underserved students ages 12–18. Using opera as a vehicle to teach life skills, daily classes taught by professionals around the community will include skills not typically taught in the classroom like wellness and yoga courses, leadership seminars and team-building exercises. Daily rehearsals will culminate in final performances of a children's opera that will strengthen participants’ self-esteem and allow them to express themselves in an artistic way.

USC’s opera director, Ellen Douglas Schlaefer commented, “I have asked a lot of Kate and Brenton during their time with Opera at USC and the School of Music opera program. In addition to performing lead and chorus roles, they have been actively involved with publicity, marketing, backstage aspects of presenting an opera. Their enthusiastic production last spring of “Second Hurricane” provided a great experience for area students and allowed them to follow an idea from inception to the final curtain. I am delighted that they have chosen an opera camp model as a means to share a positive, collaborative experience for young people.”