By Published: Sept. 1, 2015


Don Nottingham

Don Nottingham (Law’04)

Back in the Limelight

When Don Nottingham (Law’04) snagged the stage of Boulder’s Fox Theater to sing for his law school classmates during their 2004 graduation party, he belted out Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish,” the Black Crowes’ “Hard to Handle” and other high-energy hits. He enjoyed every second of it.

“I thought that was as good as it was going to get,” says Nottingham, who at the time was gearing up for his bar exam.

But within six years his baritone voice led him into theaters and concert halls worldwide with the all-male a cappella group Straight No Chaser. The group has attracted the attention of fans and musicians alike. Dolly Parton, Elton John and Seal all sang on Straight No Chaser’s 2013 album, Under the Influence, and Paul McCartney performed on the album’s holiday edition.

Nottingham sang with Straight No Chaser, then a college group, at his undergraduate alma mater, Indiana University, before leaving for CU’s law school in 2001. The group reformed without him in 2008 after a video of one of its college performances of “The 12 Days of Christmas” was seen by millions on YouTube, including an interested Atlantic Records CEO who signed the group to the label.

Two years later Nottingham, by then a deputy district attorney in Colorado’s Jefferson County, received a call from several Straight No Chaser members saying someone had dropped out and he was next in line to rejoin.

“It was definitely a shock,” Nottingham, 38, says. “It threw a wrench in things for sure.”

To sing full-time and tour with the group, the father of two would need to quit the stable job he’d enjoyed for six years. He also would have to abandon plans to apply to be a judge. It was a big decision.

But Nottingham’s wife, Erica Burlage Nottingham (MMus’04), encouraged him.

“She said this is not an opportunity that anyone gets,” he says. “She was 100 percent supportive.”

In the five years since, the 10 men in Straight No Chaser have traveled nationwide and overseas. Sometimes they play for crowds as large as 7,000 people, a huge accomplishment in the a cappella world.

The popularity of a cappella-focused hits such as Pitch Perfect or Glee helped draw fans to Straight No Chaser, too.

“We are glad for any added attention that is given to a cappella,” he says. “We’re all part of the same movement.”

Nottingham hasn’t ruled out going back into law, but for now he’s basking in the limelight.

“I don’t see us still doing this when we’re 60,” he says. “For right now, we’re still really enjoying it.

Photos by LeAnn Mueller