ECU graduate to use grant to fund Project Opera Camp

Brenton O’Hara, left, and Kate McKinney (Submitted photo)

Brenton O’Hara, left, and Kate McKinney (Submitted photo)

A recent ECU music graduate will use a $20,000 prize from the University of South Carolina to fund a non-profit that will introduce opera to disadvantaged children.

Brenton O’Hara, who graduated in 2013 and who is now enrolled in the master’s degree in opera theater program at USC, was half of a team that won the Maxient Social Impact prize. The prize was one of several awarded on Nov. 18 as part of USC’s annual Proving Ground entrepreneurial competition. Working on the project with O’Hara was his girlfriend, recent USC music graduate Kate McKinney.

O’Hara and McKinney will use the money to support a non-profit organization they founded, Project Opera Camp, which seeks to promote life skills among underserved children through the arts. O’Hara said the camp will accommodate about 40 elementary and middle school-age children from Charleston, South Carolina and will run the first two weeks of June. In September, the organization will offer after-school arts programs in Charleston schools.

O’Hara said campers will be nominated by teachers at schools with a high percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

Using opera as a vehicle to teach life skills, classes will include skills not typically taught in the classroom like wellness and yoga, leadership seminars and team-building exercises. The camp will culminate with performances of a children’s opera that will demonstrate participants’ self-esteem and allow them to express themselves in an artistic way, O’Hara said.

O’Hara said the couple chose Charleston as the site of the camp because they developed ties to the arts community there after volunteering at last year’s Spoleto Festival.

O’Hara is a native of Pinehurst. While at ECU, he was president of the Student Forum for Musical Organizations.

– Steve Tuttle

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Named to high school hall of fame

Tynita Butts (Photo courtesy of Alexandria News)

Tynita Butts (Photo courtesy of Alexandria News)

Tynita Butts, the record-setting high jumper on ECU’s track and field team who won the Penn Relays twice and was named an NCAA All-American six times, was inducted into her high school’s sports hall of fame. The ceremony was held Dec. 8 at T.C. Williams High School in her hometown of Alexandria, Virginia.

Butts graduated last May with a degree in sociology and a concentration in marriage and family relations. She is working at an athletic clothing retailer in Washington, D.C., while pursuing professional sports.

She tied for second in the high jump at the NCAA track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., last June. That’s the highest-ever finish by an ECU athlete at the NCAA nationals. She finished her ECU career as the school record holder in both the high jump (1.91-meters) and long jump (6.22-meters). She qualified for the NCAA Championships every year in which she competed at the collegiate level.

During her high school career she was a two-time Virginia state champion and two-time Penn Relays champion in the jumping events. She was honored as The Washington Post’s Track and Field Athlete of the Year as well as Gatorade Athlete of the Year.

Ranked first in the nation in the high jump and second in the long jump her last season as a Pirate, Butts recorded four first-place finishes in the high jump and won the event at the 2014 Conference USA Outdoor Championships.

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Alumni Scholarship Applications Due Jan. 30

The East Carolina Alumni Association is accepting applications for Alumni Scholarships for the 2015-2016 school year through Jan. 30.

New this year, applications must be submitted online through the ECU Online Scholarship Management System. No paper applications will be accepted. To receive a scholarship, students must be able to attend the Scholarship Luncheon on April 25.

Approximately 20-25 scholarships of $1,000 or $2,500 are available. Recipients must be registered as a full-time undergraduates with at least 12 credit hours and a 3.0 GPA. Students should demonstrate service and leadership in the university and community.

Applications must be accompanied by a signed letter of recommendation and a creative expression, both of which can be completed and/or uploaded through the online system.

Since 2005, the Alumni Scholarship program has awarded 197 scholarships totaling more than $260,000.

For more information, visit Piratealumni.com/scholarships.

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Work by ECU grads featured at N.C. Museum of Art

 

The N.C. Museum of Art is hosting a video installation of three works by New York artist Jason Mitcham, including the “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” piece produced with Scott Avett of the Avett Brothers band. The installation will be in the museum’s East Building from Jan. 9 through April 12.

Both Mitcham and Avett are East Carolina University graduates.

“Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” is a four-minute, 20-second-long video Mitcham created from 2,600 versions of a single painting. It is set to the song of the same name written by Avett for the band’s 2009 hit album, “I and Love and You”. National Public Radio reviewer Robin Hilton described the video as “a spare but stunning work of art (that) shows the rise, fall and inevitable decay of rampant urban development.”

“These animations began from a need to incorporate time into a painting involving a specific site,” Mitcham said. By altering his paintings mark by mark, Mitcham is able to add both a sensation of time and the fluidity of movement to an otherwise static art form. To produce each second of running time in the video required him to create 10 alterations to the painting, Mitcham said.

Mitcham is a 2002 ECU bachelor of fine arts graduate from Greensboro who completed a master of fine arts at the University of Florida in 2005. Now based in Queens, New York, he has exhibited extensively in the New York area, Los Angeles and England.

Scott Avett is a 1999 ECU graduate. The Avett Brothers band had its start in Greenville while Scott Avett was an ECU student and brother Seth was attending UNC Charlotte.

Also featured at the Museum of Art’s installation will be two other videos by Mitcham ­– “Ruin Rising,” a video without sound he created in 2013, and “Three,” a 2011 piece featuring music by Meredith Varn. Those two videos also are created from thousands of variations to a single painting.

The museum on Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh is open six days a week and closed on Mondays. The exhibition is free.

Steve Tuttle

Visit Mitcham’s web site at http://jasonmitcham.com/JasonMitcham/Home.html.

Information on the Avett Brothers is available at http://www.theavettbrothers.com/.

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ECU Retired faculty forums begin in January

Retired faculty of East Carolina University are invited to a series of free informational forums in the spring of 2015, hosted by the Retired Faculty Association and sponsored by the East Carolina Alumni Association. These forums are designed to keep retired faculty connected to each other, their fields of study, their university and their community. Membership in the RFA is not required, but those interested in joining are encouraged to inquire. Current faculty and other members of the East Carolina community are welcome.

Events are scheduled as follows:

Tuesday, January 13
“Sylvan Heights Bird Sanctuary”
Mike and Brent Lubbock

Tuesday, February 10
“Inside the Exxon Valdez Accident”
Archie Smith

Tuesday, March 10
“Zero to Eighty on Unpaved Roads”
Evelyn McNeil

Tuesday, April 14
“Seeing Through the Camera”
Dwayne Frutiger

Tuesday, May 12
“Did Lincoln Own Slaves? And other FAQs about Abraham Lincoln”
Gerald Prokopowicz

All forums will be held 3 – 4:30 p.m. in the second floor conference room of the Family Medicine Center at 101 Heart Drive in Greenville. Ample parking is available after 2 p.m. directly outside of the building in the B and A7 lots. For questions, contact Christy Angle at 252-328-1958.

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