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USC School of Music gets biggest donation ever

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.

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.”

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.”

 

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