Patty Highland, Chair – Contact Patty
Patty Highland has a love of handbells, having been involved with handbells for over thirty-three years as a ringer, director, teacher, and clinician. While in high school, she discovered the joy of ringing in an ensemble and has been ringing or directing ever since. Patty has served as music director in Austin area churches for thirty years, directing handbell ensembles and vocal choirs. In addition to her church leadership, she has enjoyed teaching handbells at summer music camps and as a clinician. Patty is one of the co-founders of the Austin Handbell Ensemble. After a “family leave break,” she is happy to be back ringing with the ensemble. Patty currently serves as Director of Music Ministries at Lake Travis United Methodist Church (in Austin, TX), leading choral and handbell ensembles. She also loves to play piano and regularly accompanies ballet classes at a local dance studio. Patty holds music degrees from Furman University (music education) and University of Texas – Austin (choral conducting.) Patty and her husband David are the proud parents of Emma and Dawson.
Josh Fitzgerald, Secretary – Contact Josh
Josh Fitzgerald is originally from Colorado but has had handbell experiences all over the world. Some career highlights include starting a handbell ministry in Nicaragua, performing an international tour through Europe with Kokopelli Bells, and spending three weeks in Japan ringing with Sonos. Josh has been honored to be a clinician at events in Areas 5, 8, and 11, and is a Distinctly Bronze Alumni of twelve years. He has also been privileged to ring with nine different auditioned community choirs in four states.
Before moving Dallas, Josh served the Area 5 board as the Ohio State Chair and was the director of creative arts for a large congregation. In that position, he led a handbell ministry of eight ensembles in addition to a variety of instrumental, vocal, puppet, and drama ministries. However, in 2014, Josh decided to pursue his love of travel by returning to the air as a flight attendant. He also owns and operates a retail business around his flight schedule. For fun, he enjoys playing other instruments including the harp and piano, going to amusement parks and fairs, and attending live auctions.
Linda Rutherford, Treasurer – Contact Linda
Linda Rutherford first started ringing handbells in 1982 and was hooked. She has directed choirs in Indianapolis and Austin and has also been a member of the Indianapolis Handbell Ensemble and a charter member of the Austin Handbell Ensemble. Linda teaches an introductory class at Veritas Academy in Austin and is a clinician at the Heart of Texas Suzuki Organization weekend seminar. In addition to ringing at multiple handbell events in the United States, she has had the privilege of ringing with groups in Scotland and Italy.
In 2013, Linda went with a group from Covenant Presbyterian Church to Luyano, Cuba and took a two octave set of handchimes to the church. When the team returned to Cuba last year, they took the needed handchimes to complete three octaves. It is a thrill for her to receive emails with pictures of the group playing for church services there.
Linda received her Bachelor of Music Education degree from Eastern Kentucky University and her Master of Music Education degree from the University of Texas. She has taught instrumental music, worked as an educational editor at Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation, and was a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty. In her spare time, she enjoys teaching ESL classes and traveling.
Ruth Seiwell, Past-Chair – Contact Ruth
Ruth Seiwell is the Practice Manager for Parking Way Pediatrics, a pediatric medical group. She holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the University of North Texas. In addition to her full time management positions, she currently serves as the office of Chair of the Handbell Musicians of America Area 9. She is the Handbell Camp Director for Texas Conference Choir Clinic and serves on the Board of Directors for Houston Bronze Ensemble and Texas Conference Choir Clinic.
Ruth loves conducting and ringing with handbell ensembles. She directs the handbells at First United Methodist Church in Lake Jackson, TX, and is a ringing member of the Houston Bronze Ensemble (HBE), an auditioned, professional handbell ensemble. She also served as Artistic Director for HBE 2010-2012 and is happily ringing again. As a handbell director, she has extensive experience directing children’s chime, handbell and vocal choirs, youth bell choirs and both beginning and advanced level adult handbell ensembles. She has a passion for advancing the art of handbells ringing and in bringing information and skill to all involved in handbell ministries. Ruth believes in the concept that all handbell ensembles can ring musically all levels of music from beginning to advanced repertoire. She has served as a clinician in Area 9 as well as in New Mexico and teaches a wide variety of class for handbell events.
Ruth lives in Lake Jackson, Texas, and is married to husband, Bob. She has two children, Erin and Craig along with spouses Scott and Taeyler, and four grandchildren, Tristan, Kori, Kayli and Jackson.
Andrew Dugan, Membership – Contact Andrew
Andrew Dugan has worked as a choral and handbell musician for the past twenty years. Andrew graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in Organ and Vocal Music Education. He has taught choral music at the middle and high school levels in both Oklahoma and Texas and was also privileged to teach two years of handbells in the public school system. Andrew has served as Minister of Music or Organist at several churches throughout the Oklahoma/Texas region. Currently, Andrew resides in Tulsa and works as a travel agent and ringing and assisting with an ensemble at Asbury United Methodist Church.
Jill Fite, Education – Contact Jill
Jill Fite grew up in Hobart, Oklahoma, where she was introduced to handbells in 1975. She rang in her church bell choir for only a few months before leaving for college. She earned bachelor and master degrees in geology and a master degree in education while focusing on being a military spouse, a mother, working in research, and teaching. Jill found her ringing passion at the First United Methodist Church in Springfield, VA. After five years there, where she attended handbell festivals, participated in her first ensemble and rang in Distinctly Bronze, she retired to her hometown determined to reintroduce handbells to the community. She became the handbell director at the church where she first rang. She currently directs a church choir, community choir, ensemble, and teaches children’s chime classes. Jill and her husband Pat raise cattle, grow fruits and vegetables, and have two grown sons.
Kari Daelke, Publications – Contact Kari
Kari Daelke is a graduate of Valparaiso University (Indiana) and began ringing handbells in 1980 at the suggestion of her sorority big sis. That experience developed into a lifelong passion for ringing that has included concert tours; ringing in church and advanced community groups; and attending many area, national, and international ringing events such as Loire Valley Handbell Festival in France, Distinctly Bronze, and the Inaugural UK Bronze (England). She currently rings with Concert Bells of Fort Worth and serves as Vice President. Kari also rings and helps select/coordinate repertoire for the Glory Ringers at King of Glory Lutheran (Dallas). Professionally, she is a full-time graphic artist / pre-press manager at Rapid Reprographics in Dallas.
Jeremy Springer, Commmications/Social Media & Financial Advisor– Contact Jeremy
Jeremy has been ringing handbells for over twenty years. He enjoys that handbells have taken him all over the world throughout the years – Walt Disney World, San Diego, Atlanta, New Orleans, London (UK), Toronto (CAN), and more.
Jeremy is a founding member of the Oklahoma City Handbell Ensemble. When he is not ringing, he operates a bookkeeping and payroll firm in Oklahoma City. In his spare time, you can typically find Jeremy on stage or in the studio.
Vacant, Texas Representative (North)
Amy Haller, Texas Representative (South) – Contact Amy
Amy Haller was born and raised in the Denver area and still calls Colorado home, even after living in Texas for 25 years. Her daughter, Sarah, is a graduate of the University of Alaska with a degree in biology. Her son, Chris, is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a degree in mechanical engineering.
Amy has been ringing handbells since 1991 and plans to continue as long as age and infirmity allow.
Sandy Milner, Oklahoma Representative – Contact Sandy
Sandy Milner is the Director of Administration for Restore Hope Ministries, a non-profit organization in Tulsa where she has worked for twenty-nine years. Sandy holds a bachelor degree in business administration. In her spare time, she knits, crochets, attempts to quilt, takes harp lessons, and plays handbells – a lot! Sandy has been a member of Tulsa Festival Ringers since September 2008 and is currently serving as president of the organization. She has played handbells in her church, First United Methodist Church in Broken Arrow, since 1991 and has directed the children’s handchime choir. Sandy is also a ringer for First United Methodist Church (Tulsa) and has substituted for University United Methodist, Arrow Heights Baptist Church, and Memorial Baptist Church. She currently resides in Broken Arrow with her husband, Matt, and their cat, Orson. Since their two children live on opposite coasts, they remain in Oklahoma to be halfway in between the two! Sandy is always looking for opportunities to share the music of handbells with others.