Jill FiteThis article written by Jill Fite, Area 9 Education Chair

My perspective is one of smallness. I live in a small town and attend a small church with a small membership from which to draw ringers. If you are in this situation, take heart. It is still possible to have a vibrant handbell program. With lots of enthusiasm, a little patience, and the help of Handbell Musicians of America, YOU CAN DO IT! You can eliminate all the excuses that prevent your church, school or community from having an active handbell program. HMA has the resources you need to start a new program, revitalize a sluggish group or take your existing choir to the next level.

Excuse #1: We have a small budget and can’t afford much new music.
Solution: Overtones magazine offers reproducible teaching exercises, processionals, and complete songs. Many publishers offer reproducible books with multiple songs for $40-50.

Excuse #2: I am not qualified to be a director.
Solution: Attend training. HMA offers a National Event each summer with fabulous classes for all levels of ringers and directors. They also provide resources online through the HMA website. Most areas offer workshops and classes for directors throughout the year.

ChimesExcuse #3: We don’t have enough ringers.
Solution: Look for different music. There are wonderful selections for ensembles of various sizes. Four beginning ringers can successfully ring “Porta Four” type music. Two advanced ringers can 4-in-hand the same music. There are many collections for 5 ringers, certain numbers of bells, or two octaves. Maybe even try solo ringing.

Excuse #4: Our ringers don’t have musical backgrounds.
Solution: Patience, patience, patience. Start new ringers with a program like “Basic Training for Bells” and let them learn at a moderate pace. Their confidence and abilities will grow with time.

Excuse #5: My group can’t progress because some ringers won’t ring any bells but THEIR bells.
Solution: At the beginning of a new semester or ringing season, always provide the opportunity for ringers to move to a new position. Introduce exercises and ringing activities that require ringing different bells. Occasionally let stubborn ringers ring an accidental from another position, or help out another ringer who is “too busy”. Just letting them experience a new bell is a step in the right direction.

Excuse #6: We/I might mess up.
Solution: YES you will. Remember that THE MUSIC IS BIGGER THAN YOUR MISTAKE. Also remember that church and school audiences are very forgiving. Individual ringer mistakes often go unnoticed by the audience, even though the ringer and director are very aware of it. Just keep your facial expressions neutral and you just might get away with it.

Excuse #7: My advanced ringers are bored.
Solution: Challenge them to attend area events and try out for Honor Choirs. Have them attend national events and take advanced classes. Encourage them to try out for Distinctly Bronze. Encourage solo, duet, 4-in-hand and ensemble ringing for your advanced musicians. Have them direct a song, or volunteer at the Area or National level.

Excuse #8: Our church only wants bells “X” times per year.
Solution: Ring other places. Senior Citizen’s Homes love to have handbell programs. Elementary schools like handbell concerts during assembly time. Ring at community events, in the mall, or on the courthouse square. Ring the national anthem for the high school football game. Ring at a small country church that only has 20 members. Ring at weddings and funerals. Be the program for a civic club. Ring for the Salvation Army with REAL bells.

Excuse #9: We don’t have any handbells or handchimes.
Solution: Apply to Area 9’s Chime Loan Program. Two three-octave sets of chimes are available for loan during the school year. If you are selected to receive the chimes, you will also get a reproducible book for beginning ringers, and a membership to Handbell Musicians of America.

So, no more excuses! Start a new program or rejuvenate your bell program now.

For a Chime Loan application contact Jill Fite at [email protected] or visit area9.handbellmusicians.org/education/chime-loan-program/ today!