UNH students Jamie Saucier ’03, Jason Reed ’05 and Kevin Cleary ’05 conceived the group during a trip with the UNH Chorus to perform background vocals at a Barry Manilow concert. A discussion of a classmate who had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable but treatable cancer, led them to gather a group who could perform to raise money for cancer research. That friend later became the group’s first business manager, and only female member.
The group was barbershop-based in its early days, something that could distinguish them from the other a cappella groups on campus at the time. The very first show was held in the basement floor of Congreve Hall in 2002. The group rehearsed during the walk across campus, and relied on paper music during the show. This was the first of over 25 performances for the group in their first year, earning them recognition as “the group who sings everywhere.” The group’s first major concert was held May 3rd, 2003, in UNH’s Johnson Theatre, hosted by members of fellow group Alabaster Blue. Over 200 people attended this first semester-culminating show, raising $2,000 dollars for the American Cancer Society. It was also when the group debuted its first album, “On Our Way,” which consisted of many traditional barbershop arrangements, recorded live in the MUB Theater.
Since the first year, the group has continued to perform live around the region, performing at commencements, weddings, private parties, and even the New Hampshire State House. Their audiences have included school kids, the elderly, and fellow college students. Each year they have hosted a benefit show, adding to the total donated to cancer research, and building ties with other initiatives like UNH’s Wildcat Santa toy drive.
A self-titled album released in 2006 reflected the group’s growing interest in popular modern music. Fall Out Boy’s track “Sugar, We’re Going Down” and classic rock like The Eagles’ “Hotel California” appeared alongside barbershop arrangements like “Chordbuster’s March.” The 2009 album “Shifting Gears” furthered the group’s move away from its traditional barbershop roots, with tracks like Spoon’s “The Underdog” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Gone.” A unique arrangement of The Doobie Brothers’ “Black Water” also demonstrated the group’s talents beyond singing, as music director Harrison Kisiel contributed an arrangement that, according to critics at the Recorded A Cappella Review Board, “solves this Riddle of the Sphinx with a head-turning arrangement packed with creativity, maturity, and deep southern funk.”
In 2011, the fellas went back to the studio to track their 3rd studio album entitled “May Contain Nuts.” Highlights of the album include a soul-filled mash-up of jazz classic “St. Louis Blues” by W.C. Handy and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” plus a powerful take on Phil Collin’s “Take Me Home.” But the group made its first break into the national a cappella scene with the high-energy take on Elvis Presley’s “Rubberneckin’.” It was selected for the national collegiate a cappella compilation album “Voices Only 2012” and featured the entire group with a brilliant arrangement by Mark Taipan.
The hits kept coming with Not Too Sharp’s most recent foray into studio a cappella, “Haywire.” With genius producer David Longo and the rest of The Vocal Company at the helm, NTS received several national and international accolades, solidifying their place in the a cappella scene. The passionate take on Ed Sheeran’s “The A Team” was selected as for the “Best of College A Cappella 2014” compilation, featuring an emotional solo by Alex Rich. Next came the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award nomination for Not Too Sharp’s first original song, “Electric,” with a solo by Anthony Richards, written by members Eric Schaaf and Jim McCann, and co-written by producer David Longo. In 2014, Not Too Sharp was placed on “Voices Only 2014” with their cover of the rock cover of The Crash Kings’ “Mountain Man.”
During the 2014-2015 academic year, the group reached new heights. They appeared on The Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda, and sang at the inauguration of NH Governor Maggie Hassan. The group also released a music video for their cover of Rusted Root’s ‘Send Me On My Way’ that achieved semi-virality, accumulating over 100,000 views within a year of its release. The group also released a single, their cover of Darius Rucker’s version of Wagon Wheel. Lastly, the group won Organization of the Year, as awarded by the UNH MUB Office of Student Involvement and Leadership. The following academic year, they sang the National Anthem at both the GOP and DNC debates that took place in the state of NH. For the first time, they competed in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) quarterfinals at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. Additionally, they won the Outstanding Marketing Award, as awarded by the UNH MUB Office of Student Involvement and Leadership.
In 2016, the group had the distinct honor of singing the National Anthem at the Whittemore Center when President Obama visited UNH in early November. They were also recognized by the Best of College A Cappella for the second time, earning a spot on the 2017 album as the only original track to make the grade with “Sleepless” featuring soloist Mike Buck.
Not Too Sharp seems to keep picking up steam as time goes on, with more and more recognition from the greater a cappella community, and an ever increasing devotion to the art. The group is always looking forward, and you should be excited for what they have in store!