Outdoor venues present unique difficulties to musicians. Open spaces often play havoc with sound. For Note-Ables vocalist Rebecca Shipley, the blue mannequin marking the entry to the West Street Market presented another challenge, requiring Shipley to navigate her service dog, Tari, and her wheelchair through the narrow passage between the mannequin and the curb. After a few moments of maneuvering, she made it around the mannequin and got to the gig on time.
“They start playing—they’ll blow you off the wall,” a fan remarked during the band’s set-up. Clad in burgundy polo shirts, the 11-member group ranges in age from early 20s to mid-60s. Some have physical or mental disabilities, others do not. Only four members had formal music experience prior to joining the group. All of The Note-Ables share a professional demeanor and a love for performing.
“I like to see people having fun when we play,” said vocalist and nine-year veteran Michelle Emrick.
“We must dream,” vocalist Tony Martin told the audience prior to The Note-Ables launching into “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” a song with a smooth acoustic interlude.
“There’s something amazing about finding your voice and being heard,” said Manal Toppozada, executive director, guitarist and keyboardist for The Note-Ables.
Toppozada never dreamed in 1999 that her music class at the Northern Nevada Center for Independent Living would be performing for audiences throughout Nevada. Four months into the class, the group debuted at the Sparks Hometowne Farmer’s Market.
Toppozada received numerous requests from people with disabilities, parents and caregivers—all wanting “to join the band.”
“I believe it is truly a testament to the desire among people in our community to have avenues for both self-expression and recognition,” said Toppozada.
In response to the growing demand, she started a non-profit organization, also called The Note-Ables, in 2003. Toppozada explained that although separate entities, both the band and the non-profit share “a commitment to the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of our community.”
The non-profit serves more than 300 participants through music therapy, individual and family classes and music programs. In 2007, The Note-Ables band booked close to 50 performances, including a number of charity concerts.
“Just being around everyone and seeing everyone’s positive attitude is so inspirational,” said guitarist Mark Geeson.
In addition to their playlist of blues, folk and classic rock songs, the Note-Ables have eight original songs, five featured on their 2004 CD, On the Rise. Their next CD is due out in early 2009.
“When I say I’m with The Note-Ables, people know about the group and know I’ve got talent,” said percussionist Phillip Alameda. “The reputation is really important and we just keep getting better.”