University of Calgary

No Wrong Notes

UToday HomeSeptember 21, 2012

No Wrong Notes founder and facilitator Melanie Boyd, centre, with group members Joanne Lawtey, left, and Kristin von Ranson on their way to sing.No Wrong Notes founder and facilitator Melanie Boyd, centre, with group members Joanne Lawtey, left, and Kristin von Ranson on their way to sing. Photo by Doug McDonnellIn a campus classroom, or stairwell, or on a patch of grass in the summer, faculty and staff women have gathered to sing Wednesdays at noon for the past five years.

No auditions. No performances. Just an hour of a cappella music, where, as the name of the group implies, there are ‘No Wrong Notes.’

“I have a singing friend who says, ‘There are no wrong notes, just new notes.’” Melanie Boyd, a university librarian who founded and facilitates the group, says of the name. “That’s our guide. We sing as beautifully as we can, but we’re about enjoyment, not perfection. And when people of all levels of singing experience come together in a supportive atmosphere, the results can be surprising.”

Joanne Lawtey, human resources workforce administration officer, agrees. When a friend suggested she join No Wrong Notes, Lawtey initially declined.

“I have no voice,” she says, “I’m told I sing off-key.”

With encouragement, she gave it a try. Lawtey chuckles about her first day.

“When I got back to the office after singing, my co-workers thought I’d been to the gym for a workout. It was one of the most relaxing sessions I’ve ever had,” says Lawtey, who attributes this, in part, to an atmosphere of acceptance. “It’s so refreshing to have no judgment. In No Wrong Notes, you’re just you.”

‘No judgment’ is so important, Boyd makes it one of only two No Wrong Notes rules. The other is ‘no paper.’ All songs are shared orally and are chosen for their sound, ease of learning and ‘heart.’ They are also secular, which ensures inclusiveness.

This approach appeals to group member and psychology professor Kristin von Ranson, who grew up singing with her family.

“I sing by ear, so No Wrong Notes is perfect. I especially love the chance to be creative by making up harmonies,” says von Ranson, who loves the variety of people she’s met in the group. “It reminds me how the university has a lot of interesting and talented people in a variety of jobs. I’ve developed friendships outside of my usual academic circles.”

As No Wrong Notes begins its sixth year, members are keen to welcome new women.

“All you need is a desire to sing,” Boyd says. “And the intent to attend regularly – meaning we’re not a drop-in group. But no one takes attendance.”

No Wrong Notes begins Sept. 26. There is no charge to participate. For more information, contact Melanie Boyd at maboyd@ucalgary.ca