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A legacy of song

The Harmonyx, formed in 1995, was the first group to sing R&B and more upbeat, up-tempo songs, which were adapted to sing a cappella.

It was out of a shared passion for African-American style music that a group of Carolina freshmen came together to create the University’s first black a cappella group, the Harmonyx.

The year was 1995, and although other singing groups were already well established on campus, none gave a voice to African-American students.

“The main groups – Tar Heel Voices, the Loreleis, the ClefHangers – they all sang music that catered to the majority of students on campus and didn’t really speak to the minority students,” said Dominque Hill, Harmonyx co-founder and Carolina graduate (’99). “The Harmonyx did R&B and more upbeat, up-tempo songs, which were adapted to sing a cappella. We wanted to pay homage to a legacy that had been passed down in music to us.”

Many current Harmonyx traditions are unchanged since the group’s earliest days, including the performance of signature songs such as the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “Killing Me Softly,” as well as the group’s unique approach to a cappella, which involves learning all songs by ear, without sheet music.

Though the group is diverse, its roots remain strong in the African-American community.

“I definitely think there is a pressure to do things the right way,” Harmonyx president Dani Nicholson said. “Our position is really important because we do have a voice, literally.”

April 1996 concert video courtesy of Niko Cunningham
Magazine article courtesy of Black Ink and the North Carolina Collection at Wilson Library