This Month

Registration for National Seminar opens Today

Registration opening Feb. 15 for Distinctly Teen

Join Us for Our Next MemberChat

Upcoming AGEHR Publishing Reading Session

2016 Handbell Notation Conference

Music Notes from John Behnke



Holiday Hours

The National Office will be closed Monday, February 15, for Presidents Day.

International Handbell Symposium deadline is approaching

Final payments (or full payment for new registrations) for International Symposium in Vancouver are due February 26. For payments received after that date, there will be a Late Registration Penalty of CAD $100.


National Events

Please consider helping defray the Guild’s
day-to-day expenses
by making a
contribution to


Organizing a Handbell Program-Recruitment and Assimilation

Barbara Brocker teaches you how to use bell trees in various worship settings. Also learn about selecting music and equipment. Handbell Musician Resources>>

If you’ve not yet seen our first ever Virtual Handbell Ensemble, have a look HERE. Help us get as much exposure as possible by commenting and sharing.


Help build a pension for the Guild, by contributing to the HERITAGE FUND


Please note that any PAYMENTS sent to the Guild should now go to the following address:

Handbell Musicians of America
PO Box 145400
Mail Location 521
Cincinnati, OH 45250

This includes membership renewal, contributions, event registration payments, invoice payments, etc.

All GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE that DOES NOT include a check payment should should be sent to:

Handbell Musicians of America
201 E. Fifth Street
Suite 1900-1025
Cincinnati, OH 45202



Reigistration for National Seminar 2016 Opens Today

National Seminar heads east in 2016. Join us in Rochester, New York, July 12-16, for our annual event for ALL handbell musicians. Registration opens today at 10 a.m.

Participate in educational and engaging classes; enjoy performances by some of our best choirs, ensembles and soloists; browse and shop through exhibit booths from handbell publishers, retailers, manufacturers and more; meet and network with fellow handbell musicians and develop life-long friendships with those that share your enthusiasm and passion for our art.


Return to top

Distinctly Teen with Margi Zearly at National Seminar in Rochester, New York
Registration Opens Today

Distinctly Teen is designed for individual young ringers (8th-12th grade) who wish to stretch their ringing skills and challenge their musicianship. Participants will spend 2 ½ days working on intermediate to advanced repertoire and developing skills in handbell technique and general musicianship under the leadership of Margi Zearley.

The event schedule will combine dedicated rehearsal time for Distinctly Teen with the opportunity to attend classes offered as part of the Handbell Musicians of America National Seminar.  Plus, attendees who register by March 15 will get to help choose a pop tune that will be specially arranged for the Distinctly Teen ensemble by arranger Nick Hanson.


Return to top

Join us for our next MemberChat, “Working with Kids and Loving It (In Spite of Yourself)”
with Margi Zearley
Sunday, February 21, 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

Working with children is a one of the most exciting teaching experiences you will ever have. It may also cause a few gray hairs! Children are excited to learn new things, willing to experiment, thrilled when they accomplish skills and love everything you can give them. They are also wiggly, occasionally moody and working to learn boundaries.

How do you take this exciting mix of contrary attributes and funnel that energy into a vibrant choir of young musicians?

Margi Zearley has many years of experience teaching children (k-8) in both school and faith community settings. Bring your questions and challenges to a high energy conversation about working with kids and loving it!


Return to top

Upcoming AGEHR Publishing New Music Reading Session

Looking for new music ideas for Lent, Easter or beyond? On Saturday, March 5 from 9 am to 10:30 am there will be a FREE AGEHR New Music Reading Session at First Presbyterian Church, 819 First Avenue South, Escanaba, Michigan. Clinicians will be John Behnke and Ann Wood. This will be a hands-on session where you can play through the latest new AGEHR music.

Music will be for sale at a discount at the end of the session. Please call 906-786-2932 or email the church office, [email protected], to register for the event.

Return to top

2016 Handbell Notation Conference

Join us following National Seminar 2016 in Rochester, New York to assist in updating the Handbell Musicians of America Handbell Notation Guide, July 17, 2016. All Handbell Musicians of America members are invited to attend or submit a proposed change/update for consideration.

To submit a change/update proposal for consideration, please provide a succinct, written document describing your proposal to John Behnke via email at [email protected]

All proposals must be to John Behnke by June 1, 2016. Notation changes will be adopted by consensus of those who attend the conference. You do not need to attend the conference to submit a proposal, but your attendance would be greatly appreciated.

We hope you will participate in updating this important guide for all handbell ringers, directors, composers, and publishers. Only through active input by all interested parties can we achieve a truly comprehensive Handbell Notation Guide.

Conference Schedule

  • 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM General Handbell/Handchime Notation
    (Parts A and B) – Lunch provided
  • 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM Dinner on your own
  • 6:30 PM – 10:00 PM Solo/Ensemble Notation (Part C)

Fees & Lodging

The fee to attend the Notation Conference is $75.00 and includes lunch during the meeting. Lodging information will be available when National Seminar details are posted. Please check the website for updated information on rates and reservation process.

Notation Conference Details & Registration

Return to top

Music Notes from John Behnke

Under the Influence (In a Good Way)

It’s amazing how seeing another handbell ensemble do something new, creative, or different makes all of us want to try it. We say, “that’s cool. We should try that.”

This month’s featured piece is Jill Fedon’s new arrangement of “Were You There?” AG35338. It’s for 3-5 octaves of bells and optional 3-5 octaves of handchimes. It is a Level 1+ piece. Jill said, “My adult choir rang a piece that used the singing bell technique, and my high school ringers immediately wanted their chance to do it too. I searched for more music using the technique but could not find any at that time. Motivated by my choir’s desire and the upcoming Lenten season, I decided that the spiritual ‘Were You There?’ was the perfect tune for the singing bell.” I’m reminded of the famous quote, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

Jill said her favorite parts of the piece are “The opening verse with the singing bell. I love the haunting tone it sets for the piece and the way the sound of the singing bell immediately hushes an audience or congregation and draws them in. She went on to say, “I also love the final cadences as well. The idea was inspired by a comment made by one of my ringers. The choir and I experimented a lot with the dynamics, timing, and construction of those chords.”

This piece has no bell changes and is in 4/4 meter. But, it’s a Level 1+ piece because it uses many techniques: suspended mallets, LV, echoes, swing, handchimes, and vibrato. Jill said, “Despite that fact that it is a Level 1+ piece, I think this is a great piece for any choir looking to work on musicianship. The precision of the chords rung together, dynamics, tempo and execution of the techniques are all key to making this piece come alive. OK, I know that’s true of any piece, but I think ‘Were You There’ provides an accessible opportunity for choirs of any level to focus on musicality.”

Jill says, “I lovingly refer to my choirs as my guinea pigs and my high school choir, The Trinity Ringers, rehearsed a new verse of the hymn each week as I wrote it. The morning we first rang it for Lent, I was singing new harmonies in my car on the way to church and quickly scribbled them in during our rehearsal before worship. The song has come a long way from that original performance. The current Trinity Ringers have performed the piece many times. It’s one of their favorites. They like the techniques and the ending and the fact that they were a part of the creation of the arrangement.”

If you don’t know Jill, she is the Chair of Area 2 Handbell Musicians of America. She and her husband and son love waterfalls and this past summer started on a quest to find all the local waterfalls, big and small. So far, she says they have visited seven. Above is a picture of them at Dingmans Fall just over the border in Pennsylvania. Jill says, “The shirt I’m wearing in this picture says, There is no ‘I’ in handbells.

If you have not looked at, or listened to, or tried Jill’s new arrangement of Were You There, just click on this link below. Maybe you too can be influenced, in a good way.

In this new year, go on your own quest of trying something new and being influenced – in a good way.


Until next month,
John Behnke, Music Editor

Return to top