Nadine Cooper, Founder of Tuneless Choir
For those who LOVE singing but lack the ability, practice or confidence to do so
When I was 12, my music teacher put a hand on my arm and said: “Please stop singing. You’re spoiling it for everyone else.” I was crushed! All through primary school, I’d sang loudly and joyfully – blasting out my favourite hymns. I was good at most subjects, but I didn’t enjoy any of them. The only thing I loved was singing badly, but there’s no career in that – or so I thought!
I ended up at Cambridge University – studying Chemical Engineering. By chance I was the first woman to be awarded a Master of Engineering degree there. I’d done well but thought: ‘I don’t enjoy this,’ so I went to London, sold my soul and became a management consultant for a couple of years. I hated that even more, so left and moved to Nottingham to work with one of our clients.
Twelve years of business planning and systems implementation work followed. By 2005, I’d had enough and decided there had to be more to life, so I left. I’ve been bumming around – following my interests ever since!
I completed a Masters in Psychology, interviewed people who wanted to be magistrates and even invigilated exams, but over the years I continued to read up on how singing contributes to health and happiness. Three friends had joined choirs, but after interviewing them for a website, I concluded it could never happen to me; then, I got into a lively debate with a choir leader about tone deafness.
We agreed that ‘tuneless’ – meaning lacking the ability, practice or confidence to sing in tune – was a better fit for me. She agreed to help me organise a one-off tuneless choir workshop. I put the word out in the local press and 60 people came to the first session; the BBC came to the third; and, three years on, we even perform gigs!
I’ve launched a mini franchise – giving people a pleasurable way of earning an income that they can perhaps leave a job for. We’ve got 30 tuneless choirs (and counting!) around the UK – all singing like no one is listening! Our bodies are hotwired to give us pleasure when we sing in groups; it’s an evolutionary thing.