image: James Copenhaver
Morehead State Alumnus James Copenhaver (Class of 1964) was the director of bands at the University of South Carolina for more than 30 years, leading the program to national prominence. Photo credit: University of South Carolina

Morehead State alum James Copenhaver (Class of 1964, 1971) devoted his entire life to music, and his love of the art form continues after his passing thanks to his legacy gift to the University, which funded the James Copenhaver Music Endowment.   

Copenhaver, a native of Wytheville, Virginia, earned his bachelor’s degree in music education in 1964 and his Master of Arts in Music Education at MSU in 1971. He was an honors student and a nominee for MSU’s Who’s Who list in 1964. Early in his career, he worked briefly at Clemson University, and he and former MSU Bands Director Robert Hawkins wrote an arrangement of the school’s alma mater that is still used to this day.  

In 1976, he was hired as director of bands at the University of South Carolina (USC), where he remained until his retirement in 2010. During his career at USC, Copenhaver conducted the University Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band and taught undergraduate and graduate courses in wind instrument techniques. Under his guidance, the USC band program established a national reputation for excellence. 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. Under Copenhaver’s leadership, the USC Marching Band, known simply as the Carolina Band, continued to grow and develop into one of the premier college marching bands in the country.   

Copenhaver received numerous awards and recognitions, including 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. In 2003, Copenhaver was inducted into the South Carolina Band Director’s Hall of Fame and in March 2008 into the Theta Chapter Hall of Fame of Phi Meta Mu.  

Image: James Copenhaver
James Copenhaver graduated from MSU in 1964 and created the James Copenhaver Music Endowment with a generous estate gift. The endowment provides scholarships for music students.

Copenhaver passed away in 2014 at the age of 71. Upon his passing, the MSU Foundation received a generous estate gift valued at $250,000. This planned gift established an endowed scholarship in Copenhaver’s memory. Each year, members of Morehead State’s band programs are awarded the James Copenhaver Scholarship. Last year, the endowment provided over $8,000 in scholarship support. Students who participate in both marching band and concert bands are given preference. Additional preference is given to students who intend to become band directors after graduation.    

Dr. DuWayne Dale (Class of 1998, 2007), assistant professor of music and MSU bands director, said the scholarship endowment has had a tremendous impact on the program and its students.   

“The James Copenhaver Scholarship Endowment allows us to award scholarships to current students as well as prospective students, so it serves as both a recruitment and retention tool for us,” Dale said. “The Copenhaver Endowment provides us the funds to award significant scholarships each year to students who exemplify the ideals of the music education profession and, in particular, the traits we wish to see in future band directors.”  

To learn more about MSU’s music programs, visit, email or call 606-783-2473.  

To learn more about the MSU Visionary Society and planned gifts or other ways to support your favorite MSU program, contact the Office of Alumni Relations and Development at 606-783-2033, email or visit