WPU Alumna’s band, Chatham Rabbits, airs on PBS in its own documentary

Jun 24, 2022

Chatham Rabbits, a roots band with deep William Peace University (WPU) ties, was featured in its own PBS documentary this May. 

Starting full-time in 2019, Chatham Rabbits features Austin McCombie and WPU alumna Sarah Osborne McCombie ’15. This North Carolinian duo melds bluegrass acoustics with traditional folk sounds.

Now, the couple can be seen in their very own television series. In early 2021, PBS reached out to the band about creating a documentary-style show to tell their story as they work to make it in the music world. Filming started in August 2021 and lasted five months.   

“I enjoyed filming as an extrovert but it was definitely draining at times,” Sarah said. “We give so much on stage and normally you can relax after a show but in this case, the camera followed you everywhere.”

While the process was tiring at times, the McCombie’s were excited to see the project come to fruition. In May, the show aired each Thursday and now can be watched anytime here

“There were so many moments we didn’t realize they had captured, from fan interaction to little, funny mishaps. We are so proud of us for managing it and completing it — it was so much work,” Sarah said. “It also gave friends and family more of an appreciation of what we do for a living. A concert doesn’t last more than two hours but there’s so much that leads up to the point from rehearsal to even creating the music.”

Sarah recalls how WPU has had an impact on how her songwriting, even to this day. An English major, her writing skills blossomed in her classes with Dr. Wade Newhouse, Theatre Program Director and English Professor.

She found her way to WPU through her mom, Peace College alumna Nancy E. Osborne ’86. Sarah grew up going to Peace reunions with her mom and being surrounded by the tight-knit Peace culture. She was drawn to the close community and small campus.

While Sarah’s freshman year was comprised of an all-women student body, the end of the year brought an announcement. WPU would shift to co-ed. 

“It made me an even better and stronger person to go through those changes,” Sarah said. “And what really made my experience at Peace incredible was, that no matter the changes, the quality of my education and my professors were just incredible.”

Sarah loved her professors — she appreciated how understanding they were of her hectic college schedule. Along with being a full-time student, Sarah was a banjo player and vocalist for the band The South Carolina Broadcasters. Professors were flexible to help her class schedule work around the band’s schedule.

“My professors allowed me to be in the band and have a college experience,” Sarah said. “Some of my professors even came to shows. They were so supportive of my music career.”

It was while playing at a concert during college that Sarah first ran into her husband, Austin, in the crowd. They soon fell for each other and later started Chatham Rabbits. Now, the couple has created four albums together. 

Recently, the couple supported WPU by performing at WPU’s Day of Giving in 2021. You can next catch Chatham Rabbits in Raleigh on December 4

Keep an eye out for more of their story in 2023 PEACE Magazine.

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