As I look over the past year, I realize that 2012 could be called the year of handbells for me. I know, every year is the year that I play handbells, but this year I REALLY played handbells. It began early in the year when I started thinking about attending the Area 11 handbell festival that was going to be held in Salt Lake City. How fun would that be? Stay at the Little America and go to classes and practice sessions for 3 days? I had to decide and register early, and if I went to that convention, it would mean I couldn’t be in a play in the summer like I usually do. I decided to go for it, and I joined the Handbell Musicians of America Guild in March, and signed up for the convention.
Then, in May, I attended the PTA convention, and while at a class on the arts, I had a very strong impression that I should be doing something with Handbells. Because of one amazing teacher and one year of playing bells in high school, that led to an opportunity to audition for a bell choir as an adult. I have had 8 amazing years with the Bells on Temple Square, but I can actually be more than just a bell ringer. I can be a teacher, and share my love of music in other ways.
The convention ended up being SO MUCH FUN, (http://paige.ericksonfamily.com/?p=6467)and really got me excited about how I could share my love of handbells with others.
The four hour class I attended on starting and directing a handbell choir wasn’t all that much help, but it did get me thinking about what I would do if I could actually start a choir. My enthusiasm was great, and while things didn’t exactly fall into place, I did secure a one year chime loan grant and was able to start a chime choir at the elementary school in September.
With no money, no budget, no music, and no experience, I set out to get kids to sign up and come play in my new chime choir! Since our school already has an established band and orchestra program, I thought we could just add to that and everyone would be excited. I quickly discovered that I would have to do some convincing, and enthusiasm alone are not enough to get a program going. The band teacher was downright rude and discouraging when I approached her about a new chime choir. “We already use the stage every single morning, so I don’t see how that would work.” But I persevered, send home a note asking for kids to sign up, and figured out with the principal an alternate location for our rehearsals.
I read the beginning books, and decided upon a lesson plan for our first couple rehearsals, and dragged the two heavy boxes of chimes to school for our first 7 am rehearsal. I had brought Jenna and John, and they were it. Not one other student. The three of us set up a table and put out the chimes and I showed them how to ring, and what the notes meant while we waited for the others to come. There were no others. At 8:00, my kids went to class, and one other student came. One. I had known that he has signed up, but he was the only one. One real student. I could do even less with him than with Jenna and John, but again, I showed him how the notes go in order, how to ring, how to dampen, and we played a few chords.
The next day, it was the same story. Jenna and John and I made some little posters advertising our choir, and stuck them up around the school. And in my 8:00 class, I had two students come. I was SO excited that I had two actual students! Still not much I can do when I’ve got two kids in each group, but at least I had four, if you counted my own kids. I went and talked to the principal and asked what he thought I should do. Since the school schedules are staggered, I had to offer the class to both groups. He suggested I try an after school time for the early kids. While at first I wasn’t thrilled about coming in to the school before school AND after school, I decided to give it a try.
Our numbers SLOWLY grew as more kids signed up. By the end of November, I finally had 12 kids signed up, which is enough to play all the notes. Of course, half of the kids came in the morning before school and half came after school, so they never really could hear how the song was supposed to be played until the last week when we all had to come early in the morning for rehearsal.
Our Christmas concert really was great. I wrote all about it here
I applied for a big grant from Clorox, just imagining what I could buy with $25,000. Sadly, I couldn’t rally up enough support, and we ended in 130th place. I have applied for many grants. Some for $500, and some for $5000. Many of them have turned me down. It’s discouraging, especially when two of my handbell friends received grants to buy thier handchime sets from a certain company, and that company turned me down. But I have many more applications out there, and several more to apply for this year.
Now I am picking out music and hoping more kids sign up for our second semester. Who would have thought at the beginning of 2012 how much would change for me. I had NO intentions of starting a chime choir, and now look at us–we’ve already performed (and done well) in our first concert! I brought the chimes home for Christmas and used them at two family Christmas parties
So, I will look back on 2012 as the year of the chime choir.
Who knows what 2013 will bring. I may not get funding for next year, and this might be it. I might get burned out from my volunteer job and decide it’s not really worth my time. But I just might get one of these grants, buy our own set of chimes, buy music and table covers, and maybe even buy a baton! We’ll have to see!