Siblings made huge impact on Wallace State performing arts program
This is the last in a series of stories celebrating Community College Month during April.
Hanceville, AL — It’s the end of an era for the Wallace State Community College’s Fine and Performing Arts programs. For more than 10 years, at least one member of the Cleghorn family has graced the stage during performances at the college. That will officially come to an end at the close of the Spring 2023 semester when the last sibling in the family performs as a student member of the Wallace State Concert Choir and Singers for the last time.
Rayce Cleghorn, who was recently named Wallace State’s Student of the Year at the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce’s State of Education luncheon, is the youngest of four siblings who have performed for Wallace State Fine and Performing Arts programs, starting with his oldest sister, Tahauny, and continuing with older brother Duke and older sister McCoy.
The siblings also often perform at area gospel concerts as the Cleghorn Family. They are the children of Derek and Carol Cleghorn of Addison, both of whom are also Wallace State alumni and talented in their own right.
“She played in the marching band, and they say she could play just about anything, and Dad sings,” Duke said of his parents.
“He has a CD. He and his family used to sing at events, kind of like we do today,” Rayce said of his father.
The Cleghorn family of Addison includes, from left, Duke, Carol, McCoy, Tahauny, Rayce and Derek. The family performed a song together during this year’s production of "Down by the Riverside: Tracing the Roots of Gospel Music."
The family’s gospel roots go back several generations.
“My mom and sister and I used to travel in our teenage years doing convention singings,” Derek explained “Nothing on a large scale, but my family has always been musically inclined. My grandfather (Charles McCoy) was a songwriter, and my great uncle wrote “Keep on the Firing Line,” a church hymn, and compiled what you think of as the Red-Back Hymnal, he was the editor. So, there’s a lot of musical heritage there, but they’ve got all that ability.”
Tahauny Cleghorn performs in the 2015 "Broadway Night" production for Wallace State Fine and Performing Arts.
Carol said Tahauny first showed that ability just before she turned 3 years old, when she joined her parents in a Christmas program performance at their church, Addison Church of God, which is where Carol and Derek met.
“Someone came up to me after and said, ‘Had I known she was so talented, I would have recorded it. I thought we were going to be listening to a baby sing,’” Carol said. “Tahauny held her microphone and she sang her words, and I don’t think it had ever occurred to me that that was unusual, because she had been singing and speaking for so long. I’m pretty sure the day she was born she told the doctor hello.”
Tahauny influenced Duke, their mother said, and that influence funneled down sibling to sibling as McCoy and Rayce came along. They were also influenced by their parents’ eclectic musical styles, with anything from Broadway musicals to Bay City Rollers to AC/DC being played, as well as gospel.
As the children grew up, each found their part and pretty much stuck to it, with the older children taking lead and the younger providing harmony.
“One of my earliest memories is when we’d be riding down the road, listening to that Les Misérables soundtrack,” Duke said. “I was 3, which means Tahauny was about 7, and she looked at me and said, ‘get off my part.’”
“That’s kind of a catch phrase in the house, too,” McCoy said. If they’re singing around the house and someone else tries to sing lead, the original lead singer is quick to point it out and say, “get off my part.”
Performing was something the siblings learned to do as they grew up. As their mother is the children’s pastor of their church, the siblings said they were often placed in the holiday performances.
Duke said they found their parts naturally as they grew up. Tahauny sings soprano, Duke sings tenor, McCoy sings alto and Rayce sings bass.
“But we’ll flip it if we’re just feeling like flipping, just for fun,” he said, “But usually we’ll sing down in birth order, the oldest will sing on top and the youngest two will sing the bottom part.”
The first musical at Wallace State for Tahauny Cleghorn, center, was "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," in which her younger siblings McCoy and Rayce, seated at left, were also participants.
Enter Stage Left
The siblings found their way to Wallace through Tahauny when she started taking classes at the college.
“My rule had always been they have to go to college for at least one year before they decide if they want to work and postpone and then come back later to finish,” Carol said.
During her first year at Wallace State, Tahauny discovered the performing arts program and wanted to try out for a production of Guys and Dolls. Unfortunately, her dance class schedule in Decatur prevented that at the time.
“I just agonized over it and finally decided that I couldn’t do it,” Tahauny said.
She then chose to start taking classes at Wallace State full-time and auditioned for a performing arts scholarship, which she received. In fact, all the siblings have received performing arts scholarships.
Tahauny’s first performance was in the WSCC Theatre’s production of Much Ado About Nothing, in 2012.
“That’s my favorite Shakespeare play of all time,” she said. “I was like, I have to do this play; I will make it work no matter what I have to do.”
Her first musical was later that same year, with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, in which she played the narrator. This was also the first time any of her siblings joined her in a Wallace State production. McCoy and Rayce appeared in the children’s chorus.
The four Cleghorn siblings first performed together in a Wallace State production in 2013 with "Shrek the Musical." Here Tahauny and Duke act out the wedding scene, with Tahauny as Fiona and Duke as the priest.
“The following fall, we did Shrek the Musical and all four of us were in it,” Tahauny said. “This was first thing we were all in together. It was so neat getting to watch them fall in love with it the way I fell in love with it.”
Tahauny played Fiona in the play, while Duke, McCoy and Rayce were part of the ensemble, playing various parts.
Tahauny, center, and McCoy Cleghorn, right, act out a scene in "Shrek the Musical," each playing Fiona at a different age.
"Shrek the Musical" was Rayce Cleghorn’s second time to be in a Wallace State Theatre production. One of the roles he played was that of young Shrek.
Carol said Duke was a little reluctant to audition for parts.
“What most people don’t realize is he is very shy and uncomfortable in a new situation, but they don’t see that because they see the performer,” Carol said.
Duke said after Shrek he came in to fill a spot as a singer in the Beatles show, Revolution, during his junior year in high school. When he graduated high school, he came to Wallace State full-time and transferred in 2018.
“I think I was in a show at least once a year,” said McCoy, who graduated in 2022. The same with Rayce, who plans to finish at Wallace State this year.
Tahauny, Duke and McCoy have worked with the programs since graduation. Tahauny and McCoy have served as choreographer for several shows and Duke as an arranger and musical director.
Exit Stage Right
The entire family took to the stage recently during the production of Down by the Riverside: Tracing the Roots of Gospel Music, singing “I Shall Wear a Robe and Crown.” The four siblings performed a moving rendition of “It is Well With My Soul,” arranged by Duke. Duke also helped with musical direction and Tahauny and McCoy with choreography. The siblings will join the program next month as they travel to Germany, Austria and Italy to perform the show there.
“To say the Cleghorns have had an impact on the Wallace State Fine and Performing Arts programs would be an understatement,” said Ricky Burks chair of the Wallace State Fine and Performing Arts program and director of the Wallace State Jazz Band, for which both Tahauny and McCoy performed as soloists. “They each have contributed to our programs in many ways and have made us better because of it.”
“There are not enough words to describe how much the Cleghorns have meant to me and the Wallace State Performing Arts programs,” said Tiffany Richter, director of the Wallace State vocal program. “They have been a joy to have, first as students and then as colleagues. I would say that I would miss them terribly, but my hope is they will continue to participate in our shows, whether through choreography, arrangements or perhaps as guest performers. We have been blessed to have the entire family as part of our Wallace State family, and we hope that relationship continues for many years to come.”
“The Cleghorns have been an invaluable part of theatre at Wallace State for well over a decade,” said Angela Green, director of the Wallace State Theatre program. “I have had the pleasure of working directly with all the siblings during my time at Wallace. Rayce, Duke, and Tahauny were a big reason that our last theatre production was so successful. They can all be counted on to perform at their highest ability while maintaining a welcoming and warm environment for all of those around them. Their devotion and respect for each other is admirable and makes you want to be the best person, teacher, and director possible for them and the other students involved in each project they are a part of.”
“This family has been a significant part of my life for the last decade, and it has been a true pleasure to get to watch them over the years,” said Dr. Vicki Karolewics, president of Wallace State Community College. “Their parents are one of a kind, and they have parented the best children. I have never seen a family so consistently talented and so holistically supported as this one.
Since leaving Wallace State, Tahauny completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theater from the University of Montevallo. She has acted and worked as a choreographer, teaches dance, and works with the Liberty Learning Foundation. The foundation is a civic education program that teaches students from elementary to high school about American history, the Statue of Liberty and what it means to be an American citizen. She performs a one-woman monologue as “Libby Liberty,” mostly to elementary school students.
A self-described nerd from what she calls a family of nerds, Tahauny said that is the perfect job for her.
“I am able to take my love of history and my love of literature and combine it and make other little girls excited about that,” she said. “I get to be a nerd in more ways than one. I get to be a theater nerd and a history nerd at the same time, which is so cool to me.”
Duke went on to the University of Alabama at Birmingham majoring in music. He’s performed in and/or directed several productions, including God Spell with Dream Weavers in Decatur and is the organist and worship leader at St. John’s Evangelical Protestant Church.
“I love music,” he said. “Directing, choral conducting, I love church work; I love teaching voice.”
McCoy also teaches dance at the dance studio in Decatur where she’s been taking classes for much of her life and works in community theatre.
Rayce also wants to be a performer after transferring this May. “I want to do as much performing as possible,” he said. He has had several offers from four-year universities and even one offer from a well-known theatre in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
“I’m just almost a glowing orb of pride when I watch my kids on stage,” Carol said. “I am so proud of them.”
All four will be in an upcoming production of Hello Dolly at Dream Weavers. Rayce is in the role of Ambrose Kemper, Tahauny as Minnie Fay, Duke as Fritz, and McCoy, Duke and Rayce will be in the ensemble. Hello Dolly will be staged July 14-16 at The Princess Theatre in Decatur.
Registration for summer and fall semesters in underway. Summer 2023 classes begin May 24. Fall 2023 classes begin Aug. 18. For more information, visit www.wallacestate.edu, call 256.352.8000 or come by Lion Central in the lobby of the James C. Bailey Center Monday-Wednesday 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or Friday 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
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