UNC Clef Hangers

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UNC Clef Hangers
Official UNC Clef Hangers logo
Background information
Origin Chapel Hill, NC
Genres Collegiate a cappella
Years active 1977-present
Website www.ClefHangers.com

The UNC Clef Hangers (also known as the Clefs) is the oldest a cappella group[1] at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Sponsored by the UNC General Alumni Association, the group was founded by Tom Terrell, Manley Roberts, and Barry Saunders in 1977,[2] and was originally called the Morrison Dorm Singers.[3]

The first Clef Hangers concert was in the spring of 1979, and in 2013 the group celebrated its 35th anniversary; this was the first student group to ever perform in Carmichael Auditorium.[4] In their first concert, the Clef Hangers adopted their iconic vests and bowties,[5] which are now a signature look for the group. As with traditional a cappella, the Clef Hangers use no instruments when performing or recording albums.[6]

In 2009, Clef alumnus Anoop Desai placed 6th on season 8 of American Idol,[7][8] becoming the first UNC graduate and first Clef Hanger to place in American Idol.


Since their first tour to New Orleans, Louisiana in 1980, the Clefs have performed for audiences in Spain, Mexico, France, Scotland, Switzerland, The Bahamas, Los Angeles, Washington DC, New York, and many other locations domestic and abroad. During a tour to New York City, they performed for the nation on the television show Good Morning America. In the spring of 2002, they were personally invited by Chancellor James Moeser to sing at Commencement, a tradition that has continued ever since. The Clef Hangers perform for a packed Memorial Hall every year during their fall and spring concerts, and sometimes feature special guests like Dean Smith and Roy Williams.[9]

The group has released a number of professionally produced studio albums, many of which have had tracks featured on the Best of Collegiate A Cappella (BOCA) Compilation CDs. In 2004, the Clef Hangers received their first Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award (CARA) for Best Soloist in the song Easy, featured on the 2003 album Breeze. Since then, they have won two more CARAs for Best Male Collegiate Songs for My Love on Time Out,[10] and for Ain't Nothing Wrong on Twist.[11] The group has also garnered runner-up CARAs for Best Male Collegiate Arrangement (Africa from Safari) in 1991,[9] Best Male Collegiate Album (Facing Clarence) in 2006, Best Male Collegiate Album (Time Out) in 2008,[10] Best Male Collegiate Solo (Andrew Avent for Feelin Good) in 2008,[10] and has been nominated for several other CARAs.

Before attending UNC, co-founder Barry Saunders had sung with the Traveling Men, an a cappella group at the Gilman School in Maryland. He wanted to have the same experience of musical fellowship at UNC, but there were no a cappella groups to join, so he decided to start one. With his Chi Psi fraternity brother, Manly Roberts, and other members including Tom Terrell, Mike Caudle, Steve Spencer, Reg Schloss, Bruce Dickerson, Staley Moore, and Ned Hooper, the group had their first rehearsal at St. Anthony's on Pittsboro Street in Chapel Hill.

The Clef Hangers were originally called the Morrison Dorm Singers, and it was not until 1978 that the name Clef Hangers was chosen.[3] The name continues with the tradition of a cappella group pun names, and it is believed the name was chosen because the first two letters, C and H, correlate with Chapel Hill, the town where UNC Chapel Hill was founded.

The first Clef concert was in tiny Gerard Hall in April 1979, with a sparse audience of friends and family members who were there to support the effort. It was not until the early 1990s that the Clefs were able to put on a show in the completely sold out Memorial Hall.

The unequivocal vest and bowties are complete with buttons that cover the vests. The buttons tradition began when Tom Terrell put a button on his vest during the first public Clef Hangers performance in the Pit (a central gathering location at UNC Chapel Hill) in 1977.

Signature songs[edit]

The signature song for the Clef Hangers is Carolina in my Mind, written by James Taylor. This song is performed at every Clef concert—sometimes as an encore—and annually at the university Commencement. The a cappella version was arranged in 1991 by Clef alumnus Brannon Wiles.[12] The Clef Hangers, joined by university chancellor at the time Holden Thorp, performed the song together in March 2009 at the first anniversary memorial service for murdered student president Eve Carson.[13][14]

Another signature song the Clefs perform is Africa, by Toto. The a cappella arrangement was written in 1991 by Clef alumni Tristan Bishop and Brannon Wiles.[15]

Notable alumni[edit]

Class of 2008 Anoop Desai[8][16] - Musician

Class of 2002 Brendan James[17] - Musician

Class of 2001 Kevin Massey[18] - Broadway star

Class of 1987 David Venable[19][20] - Television personality


Album Name[21] Year[21] Awards/Notes Producer[22]
That Other Shore 2015 Pablo Vega
The Mallard 2013 Thinkin Bout You chosen for Voices Only 2013, volume 1.[23] David Sperandio, Pablo Vega
House Rules 2011 Animal chosen for BOCA 2012,[24] CARA nominations for Best Hip-Hop/R&B song, Best solo, and Best album,[25] CARA runner-up for Best solo by Ryan White for "February Song".[26] David Sperandio
Carols from the Hill 2010 Clef Hangers Christmas Album Andrew Simpson, David Sperandio
Twist 2009 Ain't Nothing Wrong receives CARA for Best Male Collegiate Song[11] and chosen for Sing V,[27] Ordinary World chosen for BOCA 2010,[28] Album received perfect score by RARB,[29] CARA Runner-up for best male collegiate album, song "Nude", and arrangement for "Boondocks".[30] David Sperandio
Time Out 2007 My Love receives CARA for Best Male Collegiate Song,[10] She Has No Time and Don't Stop Believin' chosen for BOCA 2007 and 2008,[31][32] Feeling Good and My Love chosen for Sing III and Sing IV,[27] Album received perfect score by RARB [33] David Sperandio
Facing Clarence 2005 The Way You Move chosen for BOCA 2005, Crazy Train chosen for BOCA 2006,[34] Can You Stand the Rain chosen for Sing II[27] David Sperandio
Breeze 2003 Comedown chosen for BOCA 2003,[35] Easy chosen for Sing 2003,[27] CARA for Best Soloist, Jason Hamlin for Easy[9] David Sperandio
25 2003 25th anniversary compilation disk[21] Dr. DeMar Neal IV, R. Scott Morgan, David Sperandio
Elevation 2001 Father Figure chosen for BOCA 2002[36] David Sperandio
Wayfarer's Dole 1999
Five O'Clock Shadow 1997
Crackin' Up 1995
No Ninths Allowed 1993
Safari 1992 Africa runner-up for CARA for Best Arrangement
Sounds of Carolina 1991
Take II 1990
You Can't Be Serious 1987
1986 1986
Once In A Blue Moon 1982


  1. ^ Hart at Our State celebration | Salisbury, NC - Salisbury Post
  2. ^ UNC General Alumni Association :: Clef Hangers |
  3. ^ a b The Daily Tar Heel :: Serving UNC students and the community since 1893
  4. ^ http://www.dailytarheel.com/blog/pit_talk/2013/04/51675282f31d2
  5. ^ The Daily Tar Heel :: Serving UNC students and the community since 1893
  6. ^ Clef Hangers not a barbershop quartet : goTriad.com - Triad Arts and Entertainment
  7. ^ The Shocking Twist & Our New Top 13! - Show and Alumni News - American Idol
  8. ^ a b Shriver, Jerry (2009-05-26). "Voices carry a burgeoning trend". USA Today. Retrieved 2010-05-26. 
  9. ^ a b c The UNC Clef Hangers :: History
  10. ^ a b c d CARA Winners 2008 | A Cappella Music - The Contemporary A Cappella Society
  11. ^ a b 2009 Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award Winners | A Cappella Music - The Contemporary A Cappella Society
  12. ^ RARB Review of Clef Hangers - Facing Clarence
  13. ^ "Ceremony marks anniversary of Eve Carson's death". USA Today. 2009-03-05. Retrieved 2010-05-26. 
  14. ^ "Eve Carson Remembrance". University Gazette. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  15. ^ RARB Review of Clef Hangers - Breeze
  16. ^ http://www.philly.com/community/pa/philadelphia/netimes/52541177.html[dead link]
  17. ^ Menconi, David (2007-09-21). "James' record still to come". The News & Observer. 
  18. ^ http://www.kevinmassey.com
  19. ^ http://alumni.unc.edu/article.aspx?sid=198
  20. ^ Severson, Kim (2015-06-09). "QVC’s David Venable: The Man Who Helps America Cook". The New York Times. 
  21. ^ a b c The UNC Clef Hangers :: Albums
  22. ^ A Cappella Groups - Clients | diovoce.net
  23. ^ http://www.voicesonlyacappella.com/VO/vo2013.php
  24. ^ http://www.varsityvocals.com/news.html#BOCA
  25. ^ http://www.casa.org/content/2012-contemporary-cappella-recording-award-nominees
  26. ^ http://www.casa.org/cara2012w
  27. ^ a b c d Sing!
  28. ^ BOCA 2010: Best Of College A Cappella Announced! | A Cappella Music - The Contemporary A Cappella Society
  29. ^ RARB Review of Clef Hangers - Twist
  30. ^ 2010 Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award Winners | A Cappella Music - The Contemporary A Cappella Society
  31. ^ BOCA CDs - BOCA 2007: Best of College A Cappella '07 (CD)
  32. ^ http://www.a-cappella.com/product/BOCA_2008_Best_of_College_A_Cappella_2008_CD/boca-best_of_college_a_cappella[dead link]
  33. ^ RARB Review of Clef Hangers - Time Out
  34. ^ BOCA CDs - BOCA 2005: Best of College A Cappella '05 (CD)
  35. ^ BOCA CDs - BOCA 2003: Best College A Cappella '03
  36. ^ http://www.a-cappella.com/product/1806C/boca-best_of_college_a_cappella[dead link]

External links[edit]