Q&A with Charlotte Downs
Charlotte Downs is a music industry studies undergrad at the University of South Carolina School of Music. She auditioned at numerous universities, but South Carolina felt like home to her. Recently the Downs’ family graciously donated a 400+ piece collection of KISS memorabilia to the University of South Carolina. The collection includes 26 guitars, original artwork, costumes, signed photographs and so much more. The revolving exhibit of rock n’ roll history will be on display in the Music Library at the School of Music.
Q: Do you feel your father’s love of KISS was an influence on you?
Charlotte: I don't know that I would be as much of a KISS fan without him. It was pretty much all we would listen to in the car growing up. I just kind of grew up around it and learned to love it.
Q: How did your father acquire so much KISS memorabilia?
Charlotte: The way the collection started was you had to buy a bass or a guitar in order to meet the band, then you would get admitted into the meet and greets. It started like that, and then I think about ten years ago they [Charlotte’s family] started doing the KISS Cruise. My dad has been on every single KISS Kruise. He's very excited to go at the end of the month. I think that is where his collection really took off because they had all the bases and guitars for display on the cruise. You could kind of just buy them there and then meet the band. Every time he met the band and got a guitar, he got a little bit more excited and wanting a little bit more of the collection.
Q: How did your father decide that the University of South Carolina was the right place to donate his KISS Collection?
Charlotte: He went back and forth about it for a long time. We moved about a year ago so we knew that we were downsizing and wouldn't have room for the entire collection. He just kind of started thinking about where it should go. The Smithsonian wanted to get part of the collection because they already had a guitar that he donated. I believe he talked to Clemson University because my brother went there. He eventually landed on the University of South Carolina. It is only a two-hour drive from where we live. He thought that if we ever wanted to see it or take our kids sometime in the future that it would be close enough, and that I would get to enjoy it while I was there.
Q: Did your family keep any of the collection?
Charlotte: We don’t have very much anymore. My dad let my brother and I pick out one guitar that we got to keep. That was sort of sentimental to us. We have two guitars still.
The library is currently fundraising to build a temperature-controlled display case to house the collection in the library at the School of Music. Once in place, pieces from the collection will rotate throughout the year. News of the donation encouraged Carolina Marching Band Director Jay Jacobs to craft a KISS-themed halftime show at the Sept. 25 Vanderbilt game.
Q: You’ve seen KISS in concert and have met them numerous times. How was attending the Carolina Band KISS halftime performance?
Charlotte: We sat in the President's box for the game. We got to meet President Pastides and his wife. They were super hospitable, super nice and they were very grateful for the donation. It was a great experience. I thought the halftime show was awesome and the band did a great job. I didn't get to see them up close, but I heard that several of the members of the band had full KISS makeup on and they were really rocking it. The songs they played were great. They couldn't have picked better choices.
Downs’ mother, Margaret Norris Downs, is the director of music and organist at their church. Charlotte remembers she was more interested in classical music than her father’s KISS shows. Charlotte Downs was influenced by two vastly different music genres growing up. She originally was a performance major and auditioned for voice. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Music Industry Studies. This is a new degree program at the university led by Jeremy Polley.
Q: How did your family impact your decision to pursue a Music Industries study degree?
Charlotte: It’s kind of interesting because when I first came to University of South Carolina I was a performance major. I was raised in an interesting way. Whenever I was with my dad, I was listening to KISS and that sort of music. On Sunday and Wednesday night we would go to church and listen to classical music. I kind of grew up listening to it all. When I auditioned at the University of South Carolina I saw that they had a very well-rounded program, I didn't feel like I was being pigeonholed to study one type of music or anything like that. Then, once I heard about the new music industry studies major it just sounded like exactly what I wanted to do.
The School of Music added the Music Industry Studies degree as a new degree program in fall 2021 in collaboration with the Darla Moore School of Business and the college of Sport and Entertainment Management. The liberal arts degree, led by Jeremy Polley, provides students with the opportunity to make their dreams of working in the music industry a reality and gain valuable experience in music industry technology and booking.
Q: How do you feel having your father’s KISS collection forever being located at the University of South Carolina?
Charlotte: I'm just very grateful for everything that the university has done. It's been great. We were not expecting all of this. It has been awesome and we're very excited that the collection is going somewhere where we will be able to see it forever and not just feel like it's being filed away somewhere for no one to see ever again. I think people are really going to appreciate the history behind it and get to see all the items with the collection.
As the exhibit develops, students and the community will be notified once it is ready for viewing. Check back for more information coming soon!
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