October 6-9

Portland, Oregon
Carlos Ávila Báez, Conductor

Carlos J. Ávila Báez is an accomplished multifaceted musician, working professionally as a percussionist, orchestral conductor, music educator, and handbell specialist. He was appointed Assistant Principal Percussionist of the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra in 2011 and has also performed with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra and the Peoria Symphony Orchestra. Since 2013 he serves as Music Director of the Puerto Rico Youth Symphony Orchestra. Previously, he was Assistant Conductor of the Illinois State University Symphony and has been a guest conductor with the Central Illinois Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Symphony of the Puerto Rican Youth.

Recognized internationally as a leader in the Art of Handbell Ringing, Carlos has been a guest conductor or clinician in events such as the International Handbell Symposium, HMA’s Director’s Seminar, Area Festivals, and Handbell Exploration. In the 1990’s he and his lifelong colleague and friend Carlos E. Rivera were instrumental in the training, mentoring, and subsequent formation of the first handbell ensembles in Venezuela. From 1993 to 2012 he was a founder and Music Director of Vivace, an advanced handbell ensemble that continually strived to push the boundaries of what bells were expected to achieve. With them, he performed concerts and premiered dozens of new works and arrangements for the instrument in many cities of the USA, Japan, Venezuela, Argentina, and Puerto Rico. Since 2019 he teaches a course on the Use of Handbells in Music Education and conducts the handbell ensemble at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico.

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Carlos earned his bachelor’s degree in Percussion Performance at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music. He went on to receive a Master of Music degree in Orchestral Conducting at Illinois State University.

Carlos is married to Marta, also a musician and educator, and they have an amazing son, Pablo José, as well as two dogs, Marley and Canela. He’s a voracious DIYer and has even gotten certified as an electrician in his free time.

What is Distinctly Bronze?

The massed ringing event for advanced handbell musicians which provides the opportunity to perform on the largest handbell sets available under the direction of Carlos J. Ávila Báez. Four days of rehearsal lead up to a Sunday afternoon concert which is open to the public for a small admission charge.

Who Should Attend:

Successful Distinctly Bronze (DB) participants have the following traits:

  • Committed to learning all of the music on their own. Learning means going beyond the notes — you know where the musical line is and can see/hear the overall picture.
  • Learns quickly
  • Understands that the overall musical result is more important than the individual
  • Has experience with music approaching the difficulty of the DB repertoire (difficulty of at least AGEHR level 4)
  • Is willing to adapt to a different philosophy of handbell assignments and sharing
  • Can play a variety of positions, and is flexible about position assignment
  • Has the stamina, energy, and attention for lengthy rehearsals during the 4 1/2 days of the event
  • Has good rehearsal etiquette, is prompt & cheerful, and attends ALL rehearsals
  • Has self-awareness to realize when he/she “is the problem” (as in playing wrong rhythm, wrong bell, wrong dynamic, not following the director, etc.), and, without prompting or comment from anyone, either remedies the problem or sits out that passage
  • Understands that ringing is a collaborative effort. All the notes must be rung musically. This may require sharing handbells with neighbors or giving one or more handbells to a different musician for an entire piece.
  • Is open to constructive comments
  • Doesn’t crumble under performance pressure

There is so much talent in that room, it’s incredible. Sometimes during rehearsal I look around and stand in awe at what is transpiring around me. I consider it such an honor to be a part of it.

Thomas Warren

Distinctly Bronze Alumni

Ringing challenging music, working with an excellent conductor in a “master class” situation, networking with handbell friends and colleagues. Talking about handbells, conducting, directing, recruiting, repertoire, ringing, etc., moves us forward as musicians.

Beth Ann Edwards

Distinctly Bronze Alumni













Event Registration

Registration Open Now!

The registration fee for this year’s event is $375.00.  All registrants must have their own membership in Handbell Musicians of America or be the primary contact on a group membership.

In addition to working with conductor Carlos J. Ávila Báez, your registration fee includes two meals (dinner Thursday and lunch Sunday), a Distinctly Bronze polo shirt, and access to a recording of the final concert. You also have the opportunity to ring with talented colleagues and network with other friendly Handbell Musicians of America members. Additional meals and polo shirts can be ordered by completing the appropriate line on the Registration Form.

Registrants are required to have their own active Handbell Musicians of America membership, either personally or as the primary contact for a church or organization. To join Handbell Musicians of America, follow this link or contact the national office for assistance.

Ringing assignments are based on your response to the questions in the registration process about your assignment preferences. The requirement to complete additional forms for ringing preferences has been discontinued.  All information required will be gathered during the initial registration process.

What is your DB Alumni status?

Your status and the expiration date of that status were indicated in the communication (letter or e-mail) you received after the last Distinctly Bronze event you completed. For questions regarding your particular status please contact the DB West chair at [email protected]. There are three categories. DOWNLOAD the Evaluation Rubric here.


Yes, can attend one DB event within the next 24 months (4 events total) – no reapplication required. If doesn’t attend within that period, will be required to reapply. Follow the registration steps below.


Yes, can attend one DB event within the next 24 months (4 events total) – no reapplication required.  If doesn’t attend within that period, will be required to reapply. Expected to show improvement at next event. Follow the registration steps below.


No, must reapply and may be asked to provide a video and/or evidence of significant skills building experiences such as lessons, workshops. Specific areas in which improvement is needed will be cited. Contact event chair for instructions – [email protected]

If you don’t know your status, contact the event chair at [email protected].

Complete the following items as soon as possible:

1 – Log in to your member account and complete the online event registration by following the registration link on the login welcome page. The registration fee must be paid in full at the time of registration. If you do not have your own Handbell Musicians of America membership, join here or call the national office (937-438-0085) for assistance.

2 – If your alumni status has expired, also complete the Alumni Re-Apply Form (link provided on registration confirmation page.)

If you would like to apply to attend Distinctly Bronze, please follow these steps as soon as possible:

1 – Log in to your Guild member account and register for the event on-line. You will see the link to registration on your login welcome screen. If you do not have your own membership in Handbell Musicians of America, you may join here or call the national office (937-438-0085) for assistance. You must pay the full registration fee at the time of registration. This fee will be refunded in full if you are not accepted to the event.

2 – Complete and submit the on-line First-time Attendee Application from the link provided on your registration confirmation page.

3 – Contact two references that have observed you ringing within the past year and ask them to complete the on-line First-time Attendee Recommendation. Recommedations from directors and clinicians will carry more weight than those of other ringers. YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR ENSURING THAT YOUR TWO RECOMMENDATIONS ARE RECEIVED. You will not be contacted if your recommendations are not received in a timely manner.

Please note that no applications will be considered until ALL OF THE ABOVE FORMS & RECOMMENDATIONS are received by the national office.

Please make note of the following important dates and deadlines:

Your payment will be processed at the time you submit your on-line registration for the event.

First-time attendees and Alumni Re-Apply applicants, you will receive a follow-up e-mail from the event chair once ALL APPLICATION MATERIALS have been received and your application has been reviewed and accepted. THIS IS YOUR CONFIRMATION. If you DO NOT receive this confirmation, it is your responsibility to follow up with the National Office to make sure your application has been received.

Returning Alumni (who received an A or B rating), your registration confirmation email is the only confirmation you will receive.

June 15 – Ringing assignments will be sent to all accepted attendees.


Evaluation Explained

DOWNLOAD the Evaluation Rubric here.

Distinctly Bronze (both West and East) is unique in the skill and commitment of our handbell musicians. Every year, attendee event comments urge us to preserve and improve the level of ringing at the event. To this end, all DB attendees are evaluated each year and placed in one of three categories. Here is a description of the process followed and the categories in which handbell musicians will be placed:

Each handbell musician who attends a DB event and performs in the final concert is evaluated against the other musicians in the room and placed into one of the three categories below. This evaluation takes place at every DB event the musician attends.

Category A – Handbell musician in good standing – no concerns – 10-20% of attendees

  • well prepared
  • creates sense of ensemble with those around them through musical interaction
  • high level of performance energy and interaction (with those around them and the director) with a visually appealing performance style
  • watches the conductor and is sensitive to the musical direction provided
  • has the ability to take direction when others are leading
  • shows respect and courtesy to the conductor and/or other leaders
  • consistently demonstrates proper rehearsal etiquette
  • sufficient stamina to make it through many hours of rehearsal and still be focused for the concert
  • can play a variety of positions and is flexible about assignment
  • adapts well to changes and different setting of the event
  • self-aware of mistakes and works quickly to correct them
  • almost always technically and rhythmically precise and accurate
  • memorizes key passages

What this means for future Distinctly Bronze Events

Can attend one DB event within the next 24 months (4 events total) – no reapplication required. If doesn’t attend within that period, will be required to reapply.

Category B – Handbell musician is in good standing – some concerns – 50-80% of attendees

  • not as well prepared but shows visible improvement during event
  • generally watches the conductor, but is not always sensitive to their musical direction
  • acceptable performance level – musical product and/or visual appeal – but could provide more energy and interaction
  • will play only a limited number of positions
  • sometimes inserts their opinion/comments in front of the full group instead of deferring to the conductor or other leaders or expressing these opinions/comments privately to the conductor or other leaders
  • Noticeably counts with their mouth/lips
  • tends to remain isolated during performance – fewer performance interactions with those around them
  • adapts to some of the differences of the event
  • mostly correct technique or rhythm execution, but some concerns with consistent precision and accuracy
  • adequate stamina, but may be waning  some by concert time
  • not always aware of own mistakes or doesn’t always act quickly to correct them

What this means for future Distinctly Bronze Events

Can attend one DB event within the next 24 months (4 events total) – no reapplication required. If doesn’t attend within that period, will be required to reapply. Expected to show improvement in specific areas at next event. Specific areas in which development and/or instruction are needed will be cited.

Category C – Handbell musician must reapply – significant concerns – 0-10% of attendees

  • unable to withstand the rigors of the event physically or mentally
  • consistent incorrectness of notes and/or technique
  • consistently unable to recognize when incorrect
  • exhibits poor ringing technique
  • does not show significant improvement over the course of the event
  • plays tentatively
  • little or no interaction with the conductor or those around them during performance
  • inflexible and unwilling to compromise

What this means for future Distinctly Bronze Events

Must reapply and may be asked to provide a video and/or evidence of significant skills building experiences such as lessons, workshops. Specific areas in which development and/or instruction are needed will be cited.

How are attendees evaluated?

The evaluation is based on direct observation of all handbell musicians at the event by one or more staff. On occasion, there are persons present who are not ringing who will be asked for input. We begin the process with the first rehearsal to try to assess preparation. We watch throughout the event to see what improvement (for example, how much they are watching the director and the ability to correct mistakes) we see.

On occasion, handbell musicians may be asked to provide input on others. Also, other musicians occasionally provide unsolicited input on their neighbors, and that input is tested with the observations.

Please note that there is NOT a forced distribution of the handbell musicians into these categories – the percentages are only intended to give a general idea.


By attending/participating, you acknowledge and fully understand the nature and extent of the risk related to the COVID-19 virus and other contagious diseases and agree to attend this event at your own risk. You expressly acknowledge that COVID-19 is highly contagious, infection can result in death, the risk of infection and transmission are higher in indoor facilities, there are no safety precautions that totally eliminate the risk of contracting COVID-19, and individuals with various underlying medical conditions may experience worse outcomes.

Handbell Musicians of America encourages participants to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The wearing of masks is optional. We ask that all participants be respectful of each other’s choices.


You are responsible for purchasing and rehearsing the music. Repertoire notes regarding problem solving, corrections, and other items may be sent at various times before the event. Music may be purchased directly from publishers or from any music retailer.

Aglow, Jason W. Krug, Grassy Meadow, MGMH350013, L3
Waltz No. 2, Dmitri Shostakovich, arr. Gina Marie Williams, From the Top, MFM20710, L3
Mountain Journeys, Brian Childers, Choristers Guild, CGB1242, L4+
Humoresque,  Antonín Dvorák, arr. Elo Kesküla, GIA, MGIG9213, L3
A Flight of Angels, Dale Jergenson,  AGEHR, MAG35070, L6
Blanco y Azul, José I. Quintón, arr. Carlos J. Ávila, From the Top, 20723, L4
Invictus, Matthew Compton, Hope Publishing, MHP2944, L4
Flower Duet, Leo Delibes, arr. Sandra Eithun, Beckenhorst, MBEHB596, L4
Contrasts, Eileen Laurence, AGEHR, MAG36012, L4
Ícaro, Félix S. Martínez, From the Top, 20725, L4+
O God, Beneath your Guiding Hand, William A. Payn, National Handbell Music, MNMP118, L3
Finale from Serenade for Strings, Pyotr Illyich Tchaivovsky, arr. Carlos J. Ávila, Jeffers, JHS9623, L5-6


Click here for 15% discount on all pieces available from Heitz Handbells.
Event Schedule
Thursday, October 6  
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM Load-in and set-up
12:30 PM – 2:00 PM Distinctly Bronze Registration (lunch on your own)
2:00 PM – 2:30 PM Welcome Announcements for ALL RINGERS
2:30 PM – 5:00 PM Rehearsal (break 3:45-3:55pm)
5:00 PM – 6:00 PM Dinner provided
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM Rehearsal
Friday, October 7  
8:30 AM – 9:45 AM Rehearsal
9:45 AM – 2:00 PM Treble (D5-C9) Free (lunch on your own)
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM Bass (C2-C5) Sectional
12:00 PM – 4:20 PM Bass Free (lunch on your own)
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM Treble Sectional
4:20 PM -7:00 PM Rehearsal (break 5:50-6:00pm)
7:00 PM Dinner (on your own)
Saturday, October 8  
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM Rehearsal (break 10:30-10:40am)
12:00 PM -1:30 PM Lunch (on your own)
1:30 PM – 6:00 PM Rehearsal (breaks 3:00-3:15pm & 4:45-5:00pm)
6:00 PM Dinner (on your own)
Sunday, October 9  
9:30 AM -12:00 PM Rehearsal (break 10:25-10:35am)
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM Provided Lunch & Closing Announcements
1:00 PM – 3:00 PM Final Rehearsal
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM Final Concert Preparation (dress & free time)
4:00 PM Concert
approx. 5:30 pm All Hands Teardown (pack and load handbells and other equipment)

Embassy Suites Portland Airport

7900 NE 82nd Avenue
Portland, OR 97220

Group Rate

$169 per night + tax/fees
In-room Wifi included
Rate is available 2 days prior and 2 days after event based on availability
Self Parking $18/day
Cancellation Policy

This policy applies to refunds for ANY reason, including medical, family and business. This policy applies even if we fill your slot with another ringer. If you desire, you can receive access to the Distinctly Bronze West 2022 recording at no charge if you cancel.

Payment in full is required to enter your registration and is refundable only when a first-time applicant is not accepted.

Fee refunds minus a $100 cancellation penalty will be made for written or email cancellations received by 9/1/2022. Cancellations received after 9/1/2022 registration are not refundable. The date of cancellation will be the date the cancellation is received in the national office by the event registrar, Marie Clyatt-Larson ([email protected]).

Evaluation Process

Distinctly Bronze is unique in the skill and commitment of our handbell musicians. Every year, attendee event comments urge us to preserve and improve the level of ringing at the event. To this end, all DB attendees are evaluated each year and placed in one of three categories.

For a complete description of the evaluation process and criteria that must be met for each ringer category, follow this link.