And I thought UNC Chapel Hill's last chancellor was the keyboard guru.
Last night at the women's basketball game between UNC Chapel Hill and the University of Connecticut, Carolina Chancellor Holden Thorp provided the musical accompaniment for the Star-Spangled Banner. He played the keyboards in support of Terri Houston, the university's director of recruitment and multicultural programs, who belted out a powerful rendition of the anthem that drew raves as it crescendoed to its conclusion.
Thorp became chancellor last summer, succeeding James Moeser, an accomplished organist. I was curious about how Thorp and Houston put their act together; turns out they perform from time to time, as you can see in this photo of the two of them from Fallfest last year.
I e-mailed the chancellor late last night and he was gracious enough to fire back some answers. Here are all the details.
1. You and Terri Houston put on quite a show at the game last night.
How did that come together? Did it require a lot of rehearsal time?
HOLDEN THORP: Terri and I have played in a band together called Equinox for the last six years. Professor Jan Boxill, who coordinates the guest coaches for women's basketball, invited us to be the guest coaches last year for versus Maryland and asked us to do the anthem. Not sure how she got the idea for the singing part, but we have guest coaches at every game.
She asked us back this year. I spent some time working on the piano arrangement last year, and I know the right key and style to fit to Terri's voice, so once we tried it together, it clicked pretty quickly. Since we did it last year, this year, we just practiced it a couple of times in the Smith Center on Monday afternoon. My kids would tell you that I practiced the piano part at home a lot, because there's a lot happening when you go out there on the court, so you'd better not be wondering what the next chord change is.
2. It seemed like a lot of fun, and you and Terri got a great response. Was it emotional?
HT: I don't get to play for 12,000 people standing at attention very often, so, yes, it was a thrill. The crowd was fantastic last night. I wasn't expecting the big response when she sang "o'er the land of the free", so that was exciting. Terri is close to a lot of the players and works with Coach Hatchell when some of them are recruited, so it's great for her and them. I may be the chancellor most of the time, but when Terri's singing, I'm just a side man.
3. Will you be regularly invoking executive privilege to perform in front of captive crowds in this manner?
HT: There's no executive privilege involved - invitation only. I was happy they invited us back this year, especially for the big game. And I was really proud of our players and fans last night. It was a tough game, but everyone gave it all they had right up to the end. What Coach Hatchell has built with this program is truly special and a great credit to the university.