Claflin University has received a major gift from one of South Carolina’s most prominent philanthropists and business leaders.
Darla Moore committed $1 million to the institution’s Department of Music.
Moore presented the $1 million check to Claflin University president, Dr. Henry N. Tisdale Tuesday at a special ceremony in Ministers’ Hall on campus. She told a crowd of administrators, students, faculty and invited guests, that giving is more than deciding to give a gift. “This is an investment, and with investments, you not only expect a return, you do your homework up front to ensure you get a solid return,” said Moore. “This is what I desire with my investment – the opportunity to open the door to success to as many young people as possible,” she said.
The gift will be used to establish an endowed scholarship fund for students in the University’s nationally accredited music program which offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in music and music education.
For Moore, the visit to Claflin is the culmination of several memorable encounters she had with members of the Claflin University Concert Choir.
Two years ago, she stood in awe as she listened to the choir perform at the opening of the Dr. Ronald McNair Life History Center in her home town of Lake City. She recalled being captivated by the choir’s musical talent. “Wow! When you began to sing, it was like the heavens had opened up, and we were surrounded by beautiful, inspiring music,” she said.
That performance made a lasting impression on Moore, herself an accomplished musician. It inspired an amicable relationship with the choir and its director, Dr. Isaiah McGee.
“I remember the first time you expressed to me your admiration for our talented students,” McGee told Moore. “I believe your words were, ‘You are talented and the choir has moved me.’ At that time, I had no idea that you being ‘moved’ would have translated into the amazing gift you have presented to us, but I’m certainly glad it did,” he said.
“We would like to thank Ms. Moore for her very generous gift and support of the Department of Music and Claflin University,” said Claflin President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale. “This gift is a substantial investment that will create tremendous opportunity for our students. It will help them learn, grow and inspire the world through music,” he said.
The Darla D. Moore Endowed Scholarship Fund for the Department of Music will help students like Betty Alexander Pride, a freshman from Detroit, Mich., who wants to help inspire and cultivate well-rounded students by opening her own school.
“I chose Claflin because of their excellence and dedication to their students. I would encourage anyone who wants to better themselves to come here. All of the faculty in the Department of Music are hands-on and demonstrate superb skill at their craft. It shines through when they teach us,” said Pride.
Pride is one of approximately 60 students currently pursuing degrees in the Department of Music. Non-music majors also have opportunities to perform in a variety of ensembles, including the renowned University Concert Choir, the University Wind Ensemble and the University Jazz Band. Students present annual concerts in classical, jazz and world music.
Students in the department of music are trained by some of the nation’s most scholarly music educators. The faculty are accomplished performers who have appeared in venues around the world.
Dr. Lori Hicks teaches voice and opera at Claflin. Her musical accomplishments span from Carnegie Hall all the way to Reims, France. Though Hicks has inspired many across the nation with her performance, her true inspiration comes from the students she trains. “Everything I learn I want to share with my students so they may grow into the world class singers and musicians we envision them to be,” said Hicks.
The sentiment is echoed by Hicks’ colleagues in the music department. Director of jazz studies, Dr. Mitch Butler has played the trombone with notable jazz ensembles around the world, including appearances at Carnegie Hall, Piccolo Spoleto, and performances with the Fort Worth Jazz Orchestra in Brazil, and the Branford Marsalis Jazz Ensemble at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
“It’s exciting to see when the light goes on for these students,” said Butler. “When I was young, I wasn’t sure what my path would be in music, but with the guidance of my college professor , I decided which direction I wanted to go in. I love helping them understand that no buttons or smartphones can instill the talent they need in order to become excellent musicians, they have to become apprentices of their craft and work hard at it,” he said.
The Claflin ceremony concluded with an emotional musical tribute from the students to Moore. Students in the audience rose from their seats singing, and the melodic prose filled the auditorium. The original arrangement written by Pride simply said, “Thank you…you didn’t have to do it but you did…and we thank you for that.”
The $1 million commitment from Moore comes as Claflin conducts one of the most ambitious capital campaigns in the University’s 143-year history. The $96.4 million campaign, “The Campaign for Claflin University: Imagine the Possibilities,” aims to strengthen academic programs, build the endowment, and enhance campus facilities, among other endeavors.