We hail thee Carolina

Director Spotlight

Ralph Wahl

Ralph Wahl was Director Bands from 1969-1973. Students from this era hail Mr. Wahl for his enthusiasm and for recruiting high school and college student to the band in order to help the enrollment grow to over 350 students during his tenure. Several of the assistant directors during Mr. Wahl’s time took the skills they learned from him and went on to become highly successful directors at high schools and other universities. During the Wahl years, the band performed at Disney World for the first time.

James K. Copenhaver was Director of Bands at the University of South Carolina from 1976 until his retirement in 2010, making him the longest-tenured and most impactful director in the history of the band. He earned BA and MMEd degrees at Morehead State University and completed two additional years of graduate study at Florida State University. Prior to his appointment at UofSC, he taught at Holmes High School in Covington, KY, Morehead State University, and Clemson University.

At Carolina, Mr. Copenhaver was responsible for administering the total band program. He conducted the University Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band and taught undergraduate and graduate courses in wind instrument techniques. Under his guidance, the UofSC 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. During his tenure, the UofSC Marching Band, known simply as the Carolina Band, continued to grow and develop into one of the premier college marching bands in the country. Excelling not only in marching, but in musical performances as well, the band eventually became known as “The Mighty Sound of the Southeast.”

His musicianship, teaching, and passionate advocacy were recognized with numerous awards and citations from national organizations. Mr. Copenhaver was an active member in several professional organizations including the prestigious American Bandmasters Association. He was a Past-President of both the National Band Association and the Southern Division of the College Band Director National Association. Mr. Copenhaver was the founder and co-conductor of the Palmetto Concert Band, an adult semiprofessional concert band that presented the Grand Finale Concert at the 1999 Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic.

Mr. Copehaver’s legacy is alive and well today in the thousands of musicians he inspired and trained. Hundreds of his students went on to become public school and collegiate band directors, passing on his spirit to the next generation. According to his students, “Cope,” as they call him, cared passionately about the quality of the band and loved his students. He was a rabid Carolina football fan who enjoyed visiting with his students when they would return for the annual alumni band reunion.

Mr. Copenhaver’s spirit and generous financial gifts continue to support and inspire today’s band students with the Copenhaver Band Hall, the James K. Copenhaver scholarship fund, and the annual JKC Carolina Band Scholarship Golf Tournament.

Previous Director Spotlights

James K. Copenhaver was Director of Bands at the University of South Carolina from 1976 until his retirement in 2010, making him the longest-tenured and most impactful director in the history of the band. He earned BA and MMEd degrees at Morehead State University and completed two additional years of graduate study at Florida State University. Prior to his appointment at UofSC, he taught at Holmes High School in Covington, KY, Morehead State University, and Clemson University.

At Carolina, Mr. Copenhaver was responsible for administering the total band program. He conducted the University Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band and taught undergraduate and graduate courses in wind instrument techniques. Under his guidance, the UofSC 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. During his tenure, the UofSC Marching Band, known simply as the Carolina Band, continued to grow and develop into one of the premier college marching bands in the country. Excelling not only in marching, but in musical performances as well, the band eventually became known as “The Mighty Sound of the Southeast.”

His musicianship, teaching, and passionate advocacy were recognized with numerous awards and citations from national organizations. Mr. Copenhaver was an active member in several professional organizations including the prestigious American Bandmasters Association. He was a Past-President of both the National Band Association and the Southern Division of the College Band Director National Association. Mr. Copenhaver was the founder and co-conductor of the Palmetto Concert Band, an adult semiprofessional concert band that presented the Grand Finale Concert at the 1999 Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic.

Mr. Copehaver’s legacy is alive and well today in the thousands of musicians he inspired and trained. Hundreds of his students went on to become public school and collegiate band directors, passing on his spirit to the next generation. According to his students, “Cope,” as they call him, cared passionately about the quality of the band and loved his students. He loved all the Carolina sports and always followed them attentively. He especially enjoyed visiting with his students when they would return for the annual alumni band reunion.

Mr. Copenhaver’s spirit and generous financial gifts continue to support and inspire today’s band students with the Copenhaver Band Hall, the James K. Copenhaver scholarship fund, and the annual JKC Carolina Band Scholarship Golf Tournament.

O’Neal, or “Tommy” as he is known, was the Director of Bands from 1973-1976. Mr. O’Neal attended the University of Southern Mississippi, graduating with a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Music education.

During his time as Director of Bands, his favorite memory was when the band went to the game against LSU in Baton Rouge and at the end of the halftime show the LSU fans gave the band a standing ovation. Mr. O’Neal also started the tradition of the post-game concert that continues to this day. He currently lives in Selmer, Tennessee. After leaving the Carolina Band, he became the Vice President and Regional Director for Henco Inc. and is the Founder/Owner of “O’Neal Travel” and Funfare Inc.

To this day Mr. O’Neal is still in contact with many of his students and is so proud of them and the current Carolina Band’s successes.