from Jessica Westgard Larson
I was 23 when I received a call to direct my first adult handbell choir. Equipped with a B.A. in economics and German and 15 years of ringing experience, but no formal music education, I turned the offer down twice before finally deciding to give it a try.
Wondering how to begin, I called my college handbell director and mentor, who encouraged me to turn to the Guild. Attending National Director’s Seminar, then Handbell Spectacular, I learned basic conducting and began attending Area festivals.
I’ll never forget the night before our first “performance” in church, practicing my conducting to my reflection in a window… over, and over, and over again.
16 years later, I still conduct at that church and have restarted a program at another church. Eventually, my college came calling—my mentor needed to take medical leave, and I was asked to fill in. I am now in my ninth school-year running that program.
I got my M.B.A. along the way, but everything I know about conducting a handbell choir I learned from Handbell Musicians of America.
Having realized the benefits of the Guild and the people who are part of it, I have made a point to give back. I have served on Area and national boards, and my financial gifts support the Guild beyond my membership dues through event registrations, silent auction purchases and donations, an ongoing gift to the Heritage Fund, and occasional gifts to General Operations.
Last month, I was able to give gack in a wonderful way by leading one of our first Back to Bells workshops. Three eagar handbell directors attended, seeking the knowledge I had received so many years ago.
It turned out to be the most meaningful five hours I’ve given to this organization in the past 16 years. It was my turn to teach three amazing women everything they needed to know to be more successful with their handbell choirs. I became their first ambassador to this organization.
Back to Bells, being a completely free workshop, constitutes substantial costs in both financial and human resources to develop curriculum materials and to market and execute the events. We need to be able to offer more events like this to draw more handbell musicians into our ranks. But we need financial backing to make it happen.
Jessica Westgard Larson
Join Jessica with your gift of $30 or more and help us continue to provide training and educational events for both new and seasoned new handbell directors and musicians and develop new resources for handbell musicians at all levels of skill and experience.
How to Help
Membership dues cover just our basic operational expenses. In order to continue offering robust resources, educational events, Overtones, and other member benefits; or to develop new services and tools for all handbell musicians, additional contributions are needed. While gifts of any amount are welcomed, consider how donations to the general fund can support our mission:
- $50 helps with the creation of a single MemberChat or MemberNote
- $120 provides membership and resources to a school to add handbells/handchimes to their music curriculum
- $150 supports the development of a new online education resource
- $200 funds one Back to Bells workshop for 10 people
- $500 will help us create new, portable events that members can offer in their own communities
- $1000 allows us to live-stream performances from National Seminar