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  • Ken Corbett stands with Director Cormac Cannon and the family of James K. Copenhaver in front of the display case

Friendship Marches On

James K. Copenhaver’s legacy continues through memorabilia display donated
by Ken ‘81/’92 and Maribeth Corbett ‘80

To say that James “Cope” Copenhaver, beloved band director from 1976-2010, had an impact on Ken Corbett is an understatement.

Ken graduated from Columbia’s Dreher High School in 1976 where he studied clarinet under the tutelage of James Pritchard,  a former Director of the Carolina Band. That fall, he entered the University of South Carolina as a music education major [clarinet]. 


That same year, James K. Copenhaver, lovingly referred to as “Cope,” was appointed director of bands at South Carolina. Corbett, who marched with The Carolina Band from 1976-1978, recalls initially being intimidated by Copenhaver.

“As the band librarian, If I had a question I would gently knock on his office door in the old band hall,” he says. “Eventually, I just walked in to ask my questions.”

Then, in the fall of 1978, Corbett changed his major to accounting, but still felt the need to stay connected with the band and Cope. “Mr. Copenhaver was not happy, but he eventually got over it and we became great friends.”

“Mr. Copenhaver was not happy, but he eventually got over it and we became great friends.”

The Gamecock spirit would live on, forged in a bond between student and mentor. Their friendship would continue for decades, long past their marching days. “Maribeth and I would go out to dinner and travel to away games with the band or just stop by Cope’s office to talk,”  recalled Corbett. “In his later years, I would take him to the doctor, or give Cope a ride home. I would have lunch with Cope and Pat Wylie (former voice of The Carolina Band) at least once a month to catch up.”

Copenhaver, the longest tenured director of the band, went on to create the now famous pre-game show and added national and world champion twirlers to the band. In 2009, Copenhaver’s impact and generosity were memorialized with the naming of the Copenhaver Band Hall.


Corbett and his wife, Maribeth, have continued to help the band for decades.

“We handled gameday equipment for several years before our children were born.” Corbett says. “We worked all the summers when we had a summer music camp, fall band registration, all but one spring band clinic, and anything that Cope asked for us to help.”

When Copenhaver passed away in 2014, Corbett and Wylie decided to do something to remember Cope and began organizing memorabilia for a permanent display. Finally, on Oct. 15, the walls of the Copenhaver Band Hall reverberated with applause of students, alumni, family and friends as the James K. Copenhaver display case was unveiled. The exhibit of awards, personal memorabilia and collegiate mementos memorializing Cope’s legacy will rotate every six months, Corbett told the crowd as he tearfully removed the draping. “I sorry that Pat Wylie was not alive to see the display.  He was very much a part of making the display a reality,” said Corbett.

“It was exciting. I got to see many alumni I had not seen in years...”

The celebration continued Oct. 16 with the Centennial Celebration halftime show, honoring 100 years of Carolina Band, featuring the largest alumni band to date.

“It was exciting. I got to see many alumni I had not seen in years,” says Corbett who participated in the halftime show. “It was a fun day performing with the Carolina Band.”

The weekend-long celebration was capped off on Oct. 17 with guest alumna soloist, Katie Thigpen, marking the end of a century and the beginning of the next 100 years of Carolina Bands.


Now in its 101st year, the Mighty Sound of the Southeast is looking to future by embarking on a fundraising campaign to replace and repair instruments, provide travel funding to high exposure events, improve band hall facilities.

Support the Carolina Band Centennial Campaign

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Topics: Carolina Band

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