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The Daily Tar Heel

Q&A: Meet Tar Heel Voices, UNC's oldest co-ed a cappella group

Photo Courtesy of Arjun Pajni.

Staff writer Charlie Bagwell sat down with senior Benjamin Oh, president of the a cappella group Tar Heel Voices, to discuss the group's history and its plans for the rest of the school year as part of a series featuring the a cappella groups on campus.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Daily Tar Heel: Can you tell me a little about Tar Heel Voices?

Benjamin Oh: Tar Heel Voices is UNC’s oldest co-ed a cappella group. We were founded in 1988 by former Glee Club members.

That year the Glee Club decided that they didn't want to do mixed songs anymore, which meant they wouldn’t have male and female voices in the same song. 

So, a lot of the club members left and decided to form a co-ed a cappella group, and we've been having a lot of fun since then — 35 years strong.

DTH: How does the group operate? What’s the leadership structure like? When do you perform and how do you conduct auditions? 

BO: We typically hold spring auditions at the beginning of every fall semester. 

Our leadership is organized with a president, a business manager, some musical directors and a treasurer. The president typically just kind of interacts more with organizing concerts. The business manager is somebody who is typically a first point of contact for gigs. 

We perform both off campus and on campus. 

We usually work with different organizations. As an example, we recently performed at the University of California, Riverside basketball game. The university asked us to come out and perform, so usually, the point of contact for that is the business manager.

Music directors are essentially conductors; they have assistants called assistant music directors. They work to arrange our music. 

We arrange all of our music by ourselves, which means we decide that we want to sing a certain song, and music directors or anyone who wants to help arrange write our parts. 

They will help us practice and make sure we sound good as a group. They're kind of our main leaders throughout rehearsal.

DTH: How did you get involved with Tar Heel Voices?

BO: I actually got involved my sophomore year. 

My freshman year, we had COVID-19. The group was still doing things, but I was not personally thinking about joining any sort of on-campus group with the pandemic going on. 

I sang throughout high school in choir and thought it would be cool to do some singing on campus. 

I tried out for some a cappella groups. Typically, people will audition for multiple a cappella groups at once, but I thought that out of all the a cappella groups I auditioned for, this one gave me the most homey vibes, and I really liked a lot of the people and the audition process felt very relaxed. 

DTH: What sets Tar Heel Voices apart from the other a cappella groups on campus?

BO: What really makes Tar Heel Voices stand out for me are two main things. 

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One is that it feels like we're a family. I really enjoy being able to spend time with these people almost as much as I do singing in general. 

And I really like that we're a pretty lighthearted group. We like to joke around a lot, but also, we know when to get serious. We're also a very competitive group. 

We actually do a competition called the ICCAs, which is a collegiate a cappella competition. 

We've been doing that for about six years now, and we're really excited to do it again this year. 

It can become really stressful sometimes because we do practice quite a bit, but I feel like I can keep coming back to these people and tell them about the ups and downs in my life, things that are bad, things that are good. 

It's really great, finding a community of people that I can be really close with.

DTH: What do you guys have coming up? 

BO: We typically do a fall concert and a spring concert every year. We already did our fall concert, so we're looking forward to things next semester. We have an EP coming out, probably at the beginning of next year. It was recorded at our 35th anniversary concert. 

So, that was a really cool experience, to be able to get some of Tar Heel Voices' history recorded, and hopefully it will be out soon. 

Then, we have ICCAs coming up, which of course we're very excited for. 

We've already performed all of our songs at the last concert, and we're itching to get started on the choreography for that. We have our spring concert coming up as well. 

The Tar Heel Voices will be performing at the Student Alumni Association's  Holiday Concert at 6 p.m. on Nov. 28 at the Great Hall in the Student Union.

Photo Courtesy of Arjun Pajni.

@dthlifestyle |