For over thirty years, Greig Ashurst has developed an impressive conducting and teaching career in many facets of music, technology, and educational philosophy across the United States. A native of Lafayette, Louisiana, he served as a music educator in Louisiana, North Carolina, and Texas. Currently, Mr. Ashurst is Director of Bands and Director of Technology at Cathedral-Carmel School, where he was selected as the 2016–2017 “Teacher of the Year,” an honor for which he was selected twice previously in Louisiana and North Carolina. He is a published composer and arranger and has two lines of mallets that he designed specifically for playing on handbells. These mallets, sold by Schulmerich Bells, have changed the timbral landscape of handbell music throughout the world. He currently serves as president-elect of the Handbell Musicians of America and is an advocate for getting handbells into schools throughout the United States.
Brenda E. Austin is a dynamic and energetic conductor, clinician, and composer connecting musicians through handbells. In 2019, Brenda joined the team at Hope Publishing Company in Carol Stream, Illinois, as Editor. She has served as the Artistic Director for the Detroit Handbell Ensemble since 2016. Under her baton, DHE was honored to open the Handbell Musicians of America National Seminar in 2018 and be the featured concert for the 2019 Area 2 Festival in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Additionally, she has served First United Methodist Church in Eaton Rapids, Michigan, as Director of Music since 2003. She is also active in the community directing Children’s musical theatre. Brenda graduated with degrees in Vocal Performance from Western Michigan University and a Master of Music in Choral Conducting from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She studied with Craig Arnold, Steve Zegree, and Eph Ehly. Brenda is in demand as a handbell clinician throughout the year and has been the conductor and clinician at numerous festivals and workshops, including HMA National Seminar and many of the Area festivals. Additionally, she has had more than 70 titles published for handbells and sacred choral since 2015. For more information about Brenda, please visit her website at www.BrendaEAustin.com.
Bob Avant has an interesting and varied background. His multiple careers have included being a band director, an instructional technology consultant to area-wide school districts, an independent technical consultant, a handbell audio and recording engineer for several major handbell music publishers, a composer, a handbell publisher, and of course, a long–time handbell director. He is a co-founder of the Austin Handbell Ensemble (AHE), an auditioned community-based group, and is in his 27th year as its director. He is excited to be in his 13th year as an Adjunct Lecturer at Baylor University as the director of the Baylor Bronze Handbell Ensemble. In addition to these ensembles, he has led church handbell choirs for over 30 years. Bob holds three degrees from the University of Texas, including a bachelor’s degree in music education, a master’s degree in music (instrumental conducting), and a master’s degree in education (instructional technology). Bob has presented sessions on various topics at multiple National Seminars of the Handbell Musicians of America. His group, the AHE, has also been a performing ensemble at two of these annual national events. Bob is an active clinician, having led events in Texas, Florida, and Arkansas.
As an IT security leader, Paul Berryman has protected people for over two decades from the usual suspects of hackers, criminals, and bored teenagers. He shifted his career to education and is the Lead Instructor of Cybersecurity at ThriveDX. He also started his own company, BIT School, to teach how to connect with users through storytelling and engaging presentations. Never one to shy away from a side hustle, he and his wife, Stevie, own Truly Horrible Things, a card game company specializing in sarcasm and good humor. They created Crimes Against Handbells, Theatre Is Tragic, Band Is Horrible, and other “horrible” products. He orbits the handbell world, helping in the background but rarely ringing. He has served on the Houston Chamber Ringers board for ten years, currently as Treasurer, and takes care of the IT, A/V, and schleps as needed. Dr. B started his professional career with six years of swashbuckling adventures with the US Navy. He is also a big fan of colleges, having attended seven different ones. With a doctorate in education and a master’s in computer science, he’s figured out that strong security starts with teaching how to behave online. It isn’t rocket science, but just in case, he has a degree in that, too.
Stevie Berryman can’t whistle. But she makes fantastic pesto, and she can fold a fitted sheet. Likewise, her skills as a music director and teacher have also been acquired through long hours of arduous and dedicated practice. For much of her career, Stevie has directed seven or more ensembles each week, meaning she has 114 years of experience (in dog years). Her effusive energy and wild creativity found a perfect setting in 2013 when she became the Artistic Director of the Houston Chamber Ringers, which has let her smash together her love for music, laughter, and tacos in a truly remarkable way. She has a particular passion for teaching beginners how to ring, and her innovative, play-based methods have made her a sought-after educator and clinician at area and national handbell festivals. Stevie serves as the handbell director at First Congregational Church of Houston and loves helping other choirs as a private clinician or planning epic concerts for them as a creative consultant. She and her husband, Paul, are co–owners of Truly Horrible Things, a snarky card game company, even though her mother always told her that no one would ever pay her to be sarcastic.
Mitchell Eithun is a church musician, composer, and mathematician. He has over sixty published pieces of handbell music and has received commissions from community and church handbell ensembles. Mitchell is interested in developing innovative handbell rehearsal techniques and writing about the history of church music. Mitchell holds a B.A. in Mathematics and Computer Science with a minor in music from Ripon College (Ripon, Wisconsin) and an M.S. in Computational Mathematics, Science, and Engineering from Michigan State University (East Lansing). Currently, he is pursuing an M.Div. at Duke Divinity School (Durham, North Carolina) and serves as a carillonneur at Duke Chapel. Mitchell previously served as handbell director at the First Presbyterian Church of Holt, digital ministry intern at University Lutheran Church, and pastoral intern at Campus Edge Fellowship. In his spare time, he enjoys learning the carillon and traveling to new places.
Gillian Erlenborn is the Choral Director and Musical Theatre Teacher at Frelinghuysen Middle School in Morristown, New Jersey. Gillian utilizes handbells and handchimes in her vocal ensemble curriculum to better engage her students in a full body– and literacy-based musical education. Gillian graduated from Westminster Choir College in 2018 with both a Bachelor of Music in Music Education and a Master of Arts in Teaching. She also directs the handbell choir and children’s choir at Middlebush Reformed Church in Middlebush, New Jersey. Gillian is proud to serve on the National Board of the Handbell Musicians of America.
A native Texan relocated to Colorado, Nikki Evans has played other instruments (including piano, guitar, and knowing what the little buttons do on an accordion); however, she found her passion when she discovered the art of handbell ringing and jumped in with both feet, immersing herself in the handbell world however she could. As a soloist, she has presented several concerts and contributed music to numerous worship services in Texas and Colorado. In 2021, she was honored to perform at National Seminar in Phoenix. Nikki has coached handbell soloists and has taught workshops for church and community handbell groups in Colorado Springs. She is looking forward to her faculty debut!
Josh Fitzgerald is originally from Colorado but has had handbell experiences all over the world. Some career highlights include starting a handbell ministry in Nicaragua, playing for crowds in Germany and Austria with Kokopelli, and performing in BYU-Idaho’s televised Christmas special with Sonos Handbell Ensemble. Although he’s currently a member of his local ensemble, Concert Bells of Fort Worth, he has been a member of nine different auditioned community choirs around the country, a couple of which required airplane transportation to attend rehearsals. Josh is a Distinctly Bronze Alumni of 17 years, a Virtuoso alumni, and has served on the leadership boards of both Area 5 and Area 9. Once upon a time, he was the Director of Creative Arts for a large UMC where he led a handbell ministry of eight ensembles, other choirs and instrumental groups, theatre ministries, and a blacklight puppet team. He’s now a flight attendant for a major carrier and runs an e-commerce and auction business.
Michael J. Glasgow, who is likely either composing or working on a logic puzzle right now, is honored that you’re reading his biography; a thousand blessings on you and your house! His work is legendary in church music, advertising, and supermarket food demonstrations (it was a dark time for him, but little old ladies still talk about his pioneer efforts with cutting-edge bagged salad). After a full-time church-music career spanning more than 23 years, Michael is now full-time freelance and offers his clientele a full-service experience without the distractions of a church job or a school job. (Yup, someone who actually answers the phone AND returns e-mails promptly: what you need, when you need it.). Heralded for his abundant melodic gift (New York Concert Review), Michael is an award-winning composer of organ, handbell, and choral works and keeps busy with commissions (as well as pet projects that will never sell but are fun to write). Michael made his Carnegie Hall debut conducting his Requiem for chorus and orchestra in June 2017 and conducted its European premiere in Vienna in June 2019. More than 150 engagements have brought him to three dozen states, as well as England, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, and a cruise ship in the Eastern Caribbean. In June 2022, he returned to the podium in Carnegie Hall to conduct the world premiere of his Gloria for chorus and orchestra. While he’ll never be on Facebook, Michael is a member of ACDA, American Composers Forum, ASCAP, FUMMWA, Handbell Musicians of America, Mensa, and several other professional organizations. Visit www.michaeljglasgow.com and subscribe to/follow @MichaelJGlasgow on YouTube and Twitter. (And if you’ve read this far, TWO thousand blessings on you and your house! Thanks!)
Ellie Hodder is a long-time member of Handbell Musicians of America, Area 10. She served as a National Regional Membership Coordinator from 2013 to 2016 and is now Treasurer for Area 10. As a handbell musician, she has taught handbell musicians from age seven to 101 and continues to create opportunities for folks to learn. Ellie teaches handchime ensembles in senior living retirement communities, where her choir’s size is limited only by the number of chimes she owns! In 2005, Ellie founded the Pacific NW Handbell Directors/Musicians Forum, which even offered virtual sessions during COVID. She created Pacific Ringers, a non-auditioned community handbell ensemble for intermediate musicians whose motto is “we love handbells, and it shows!” Ellie created the Coppers Classic ringing event in 2015 to encourage intermediate handbell musicians — coppers — to stretch themselves and recognize their unique abilities as handbell musicians. Ellie is a frequent clinician for events in the US and Canada. Ellie is Director of Music Ministries at Murray Hills Christian Church in Beaverton, Oregon, and lives in Portland with her husband, Benn.
Born and raised in Canton, Ohio, Michael Joy has lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, since 1974. He received a Bachelor of Music in Theory and Composition from Baldwin-Wallace University in Berea, Ohio. He studied handbells with Donald Allured and handbell composition with Arnold Sherman. For the last 47 years, Michael has been the Music Director at First Presbyterian Church in Ambler, Pennsylvania, where he started the handbell program in 1978. In 2019 Michael retired from The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, where he taught for 21 years and developed the handbell program there. Michael is the Executive Editor for the GIA Foundations Series, designed specifically for developing handbell ensembles in schools. He is the co-author (with Sandra Eithun) of Pathways to Musical Ringing, a reproducible series from Choristers Guild. Michael is a published composer and has taught at Handbell Musicians of America Area festivals and National Seminars, PMEA district and state conferences, and the 2008 International Handbell Symposium. He was the inaugural director of the first College Ring-In from 2016–2018. In June 2019, Michael was the inaugural conductor for Reaching for Bronze, a handbell event for ringers who aspire to become advanced-level ringers. He received the Donald E. Allured Original Composition Award in 2011. Jeffers Publishing Company named Michael Composer of the Year in 2004 for his composition Dorian Dance.
Beth Judd is retired from full-time Music and Arts Ministry after 40+ years of conducting singing and ringing choirs with children, youth, and adults, overseeing Liturgical Dance and Art Gallery ministries, and developing concert series. She served as Music Chairman and later as President of AGEHR and has proudly been attending AGEHR/HMA events since 1965! She also served as president of the Greater Dallas Handbell Association, Secretary/Treasurer for Area 9, Associate Conductor of the Dallas Handbell Ensemble, and the first conductor and artistic director of Concert Bells of Fort Worth. Beth continues as a conductor and clinician for seminars, festivals, and denominational worship and music conferences. She conducted the 2015 HMA Distinctly Bronze East and the 2021 Distinctly Bronze West events and the 2004 International Handbell Symposium in Toronto. Beth is honored to serve as a volunteer for Hospice Austin, the Presbyterian Association of Musicians, and in her church.
Solo Handbell Artist Linda Krantz has been wowing audiences with her artistry and skill in the growing genre of solo English handbells since 2005. A visual as well as musical performer, a handbell soloist must combine the fluid grace of a dancer, the musicality of a virtuoso, and the precision of an athlete to perform on this demanding instrument. She is a master in all three. Linda has played throughout the United States and Europe and has been a solo guest artist twice in the Pasadena Symphony Holiday Candlelight concerts. She has premiered several original works, two of which she herself commissioned. Her love of classical music is exhibited in the music she plays (her favorite is Fauré), transcribing their works for her instrument. She was a featured concert soloist at an HMA National Seminar. Across the country, Linda teaches the techniques and skills necessary for a solo handbell musician, encouraging young handbell musicians along the way. She recently conducted a Virtual Master Class in Solo Ringing, sponsored by Handbell Musicians of America. Linda is the founding member of L.A. Bronze, a semi-professional handbell ensemble which regularly performs in Southern California and is a regular guest artist of the Pasadena Symphony’s Holiday Candlelight Concert. Linda resides in Glendale with her husband, Bill, and her darling dog, Gracie.
Leslie Lewis has been ringing handbells since 1979, when she was introduced to them at the Montreat Worship and Music Conference. Leslie has been ringing in the bass section for Distinctly Bronze East since the event began in 1999; she participated in the Distinctly Bronze European Tour in 2007 and added Distinctly Bronze West in 2019 & 2021. She has rung low bass in many area and national All-Star Choirs and rang low bass at Virtuoso 2017, 2019, & 2022, sharing the stage with the Raleigh Ringers for the final concert. Leslie currently serves as the Treasurer for Area 3 of the Handbell Musicians of America. She enjoys substituting for choirs in the Gastonia and Charlotte area, assisting the Raleigh Ringers with demo recordings, and dabbling in solo ringing. Having added the lower 6th and 7th octave chimes to her growing set of handbell toys, she hopes to offer her services to add the lower chimes for groups that don’t have them available now that ringing has returned to normal in the area. After graduating from North Carolina State with a degree in computer science, Leslie worked for IBM and First Union National Bank for a combined 15 years before turning a part-time role preparing income taxes into a career. Leslie is President of Unified Income Taxes and Accounting, Inc., in Gastonia, where she prepares all types of tax returns and, as an Enrolled Agent, represents clients during IRS tax audits and appeals. Besides bells, Leslie enjoys playing golf and walking on the beach as a precursor to life after retirement.
Trained as a percussionist and Electone musician, Damien Lim is the Founder and Music Director of the award-winning Ministry of Bellz from Singapore. Percussion and Handbells have led him to perform, teach, and adjudicate in more than 20 countries, including the USA, Japan, Egypt, Turkey, Ireland, and France. Damien holds a Master of Music (Performance) from the University of West London—London College of Music (UK) and is the Executive Director of the Handbell Ringers of Singapore (HRSG). Damien is currently pursuing his second master’s degree (in leadership) at the National University of Singapore—Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music. He directs advanced handbell teams at six schools and is a consultant for eight other school ensembles. A firm believer in creative excellence through handbell music, he contributes actively to the development of handbell standards in Singapore through his works. He constantly seeks to be purposeful in pursuit of excellence. Visit his website at: www.damienlim.weebly.com.
At eight years of age, Elizabeth Mays Loebig picked up a C7 behind her mother’s back one afternoon at the church handbell rehearsal. Upon discovering her daughter’s transgression, director Linda immediately assigned Beth said C7 as a member of the choir. Twenty-six years later, Beth graduated from Azusa Pacific University with master’s degrees in both Handbell Performance and Conducting. She is now an accomplished soloist, music teacher, and conductor. Her graduate recital, “The History of Handbells,” featured 13 pieces narrating the rich traditions of English handbells as well as moving the art forward into the next generation. She earned the first Master of Music degree in Performance: Handbells in the United States. Beth is now continuing her studies at Claremont Graduate University, working on Ph.D. in Musicology. She is a founding member of the professional handbell ensemble Timbré and serves as Education Director for Area 12 of the Handbell Musicians of America. Her debut solo handbell album, Pure Imagination, is currently in progress. By day, she works as the interim handbell director at Bethany Lutheran Church. By night she enjoys concerts and karaoke. And she still blames it all on her mother.
Ron Mallory has been playing, directing, and composing for handbells for more than 25 years. In addition to his work as a composer/arranger, Ron runs Martellato Media, which produces handbell demos and music for multimedia projects, and Paraboloid Press, a music and arts publishing company. Ron has extensive experience working with handbell ensembles in church, school, and community choir settings. He has more than 250 handbell pieces in print and has won multiple composition contests. Ron has served as guest conductor at numerous festivals and regularly teaches at local and national handbell conferences. Outside of music, Ron’s primary interest is astronomy, and he is actively involved in science education. Many of his musical compositions are written on astronomical themes. Ron has a master’s degree in choral conducting from the University of Washington and a bachelor’s degree in music composition from California State University, Long Beach. He currently lives in Mulvane, Kansas, with his wife, Emily, and their children, Vivian, Miles, and Rigel. A lifelong Christian, Ron is always working to grow in his relationship with God. For more about Ron and his music, visit www.ronmallorymusic.com.
Bruna Marinho is an energetic handbell ringer, pianist, music teacher, and music therapist based in São Paulo, Brazil. She is the founder of Handbells Brasil, an organization that promotes the art of handbells in Brazil through performance and education. Bruna is very active and creative on social media, managing her personal and bell group pages. She has a series of comedy handbell videos named “Confessions of a Ringer“ on her personal Youtube channel and another named “Curious Ringer“ on the Handbells Brasil channel to engage people of all ages and spread the joy of handbells. She served in the music ministry of St. Andrew Presbyterian church, in Iowa, for six months in 2019, ringing bells, conducting the children’s handbell choir, and studying liturgical music. Bruna graduated from the Catholic University of Santos in 2014 with a degree in music education and from Santa Marcelina College with a post-baccalaureate in music therapy in 2022, through which she started working with elderly people doing sessions with handbells and handchimes. Currently, she is pursuing a master’s degree in gerontology at the University of São Paulo to investigate the effectiveness of the Yura Rhythm, a music-for-seniors method. Bruna works as a music therapist doing handbells and handchimes in residentials for seniors, as a music teacher at Maple Bear Canadian School, and promoting the art of bells in Brazil.
Travis Maslen is in his twenty-eighth year as a music educator and his nineteenth year as an instructor at Christian Brothers High School, located in Sacramento, California. He also serves as Department Chair of the Media, Visual, and Performing Arts Department. As Director of Instrumental Music, he conducts and oversees the string orchestra, three levels of band, jazz band, drumline, and handbell ensemble. As a composer and arranger, Travis has created works in the classical, pop, and jazz genres for instrumental and choral ensembles, both large and small. Ensembles and events include the Liberty University Band; Festival of New American Music (FeNAM) annually held at California State University, Sacramento; Cosumnes River College Brass Choir; the Sacramento Gay Men’s Chorus; The Princeton Singers; Trombone Christmas Los Angeles; Tuba Christmas Sacramento and Monterey; and high school Handbell Ensemble. Currently, he is arranging seven works for brass ensemble, publishing in 2023; a work for full jazz ensemble; and a mini concerto for timpani and symphonic band. Travis Maslen holds a B.A. in music and an M.M. in music composition from California State University, Sacramento. He is currently working on a dissertation on the topic of jazz improvisation.
Bill Mathis has served the Handbell Musicians of America in several capacities, currently as a member of the National Board of Directors. He is an active clinician in both the choral and handbell fields. As a festival conductor and workshop clinician, he leads local, regional, and national events, giving special emphasis to teaching rehearsal technique and musicianship. He is the founder and music director of Bells of the Lakes and the music director of Chorus Polaris. His compositions are found in the catalogs of 15 publishers.
Carolynne Mathis recently retired from Concordia University after 25 years as Professor of Handbells. Carolynne has served as a clinician and conductor at local, area, national, and international handbell events. She continues to direct the handbell program at her church. In retirement, she enjoys working with individual choirs, helping them improve their musicality, rhythm, and listening skills. In addition to handbells, she enjoys yoga, walking, gardening, spending time with family, and making sourdough bread.
As a four-year-old playing melodies by ear on the piano, D. Linda McKechnie knew that music would play a prominent role in her life. She met her future husband on a blind date and, after graduating from Nyack College, New York, in organ performance, together they proceeded to minister in various Presbyterian churches from New York City to California. At various times, Linda served as organist, adult and children’s choir director, and handbell director where her husband was Pastor. While in Tulsa, Linda was elected Chair of Area 9 and published her first piece, Glorious Things for bells and brass, which, for several years was the grand finale for National Festivals with 1200 ringers. During 1987–1989, Linda served the Handbell Guild as the 14th President and became a visionary in organizing master classes and tracks for Seminar. As a Sustaining Partner, Honorary Life Member, and founder of the D. Linda McKechnie Scholarship, Linda continues to publish handbell music, from her book Ringing for the First Time to arrangements with orchestra performed by the Boston Pops. Immediately after her presidency, Linda’s professional life changed drastically by signing her first recording contract with Brentwood Records, Nashville. Along with her brother, Don Marsh, as orchestrator and producer, they recorded 12 CDs with members of the Nashville Symphony and the London Festival Orchestra. This Steinway artist succeeds with dramatic flair in breathing new life into Christian music by blending hymns, carols, and love songs with powerful themes of classical composers. All these arrangements are available on www.lindamckechnie.com. Performing highlights include playing a private concert for Ruth and Billy Graham, concertizing throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, Hong Kong, and Korea, and numerous TV appearances. Once again, Linda’s creative focus turned in another direction by launching a handbell program for the Brookwood Community for functionally challenged adults in Houston, Texas. They quickly began to master their musical skills and built their confidence to perform for the Houston Grand Opera Gala and the Houston Astros baseball game. Diana Montgomery is the current director of this group and will be co-teaching the Handbells for Non-Music Readers track for the 2023 Seminar. Now living in Charlotte, North Carolina, with David McKechnie and two adult children close by, Linda refuses to use the word retire. With a long list of published music for piano with organ, string quartet, orchestra, and handbell publications, Linda continues to be inspired to write and perform and make a difference in this world through her music.
Carol Lynn Mizell, from Denton, Texas, has been the conductor of the Denton Community Band since 1978, retired as Band/Handbell Director at Strickland Middle School in 2017, and is the handbell director at First United Methodist Church. She holds B.M.E. and M.M.E. degrees from the University of North Texas. Carol Lynn is an active conductor and clinician for area and national handbell events and is a published composer and an oboist. Carol Lynn has been a part of All-Star Handbell Choirs at several Handbell Musicians of America National Seminars, and she attended her first International Handbell Symposium in Nashville in 2022. She is a charter member of Concert Bells of Fort Worth and served as President of the Greater Dallas Handbell Association 2018–2021. Her professional memberships include Sigma Alpha Iota and the Fellowship of Worship Arts. Carol Lynn and her husband, Bob, have two daughters, Michelle Mizell Corazao and Jennifer Mizell Mount, sons-in-law Marc Corazao and Terry Mount, and grandsons Ian Corazao, Kyle Mount, and Benjamin Mount. Her hobbies include playing Bridge and 42.
Diana Montgomery has been an active handbell musician for more than 20 years. She was a choir mom for Kirtsy Mitchell’s handbell choirs when her children were young and now directs the children’s and Chancel Bell ensembles at Chapelwood United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, where she also serves as the assistant organist and plays flute in the church orchestra. In 2019, Diana became the director of the Brookwood Handbell Ensemble, a 17-member handbell ensemble founded by Linda McKechnie at the Brookwood Community, a residential community for disabled adults in Brookshire, Texas. Diana joined the Houston Bronze Ensemble in 2021. She also serves as treasurer for Area 9 and is on the board of directors for the Greater Houston Handbell Association. She has a degree in music education from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, with emphasis in flute and organ. Diana retired from a career as a CPA in 2017 and now devotes her time to music, family, and volunteer activities.
Hyosang Park received a double master’s degree in sacred music and piano performance from Westminster Choir College. At Westminster, she joined the Westminster Concert Bell Choir and performed countless concerts under the direction of Kathy Ebling Shaw, a world-leading handbell choir director and clinician. Ms. Park is currently the music director at Princeton United Methodist Church, the artistic director of Philadelphia Bronze, and works at Malmark Bells Inc. in Plumsteadville, Pennsylvania. Since Hyosang Park and collaborative pianist Dr. Akiko Hosaki formed Duo Grazioso in 2012, the duo has performed at numerous venues in the New Jersey area. In 2014 Summer, they were invited to the Handbell National Seminar in Atlanta, Georgia. She also performs as a member of a handbell quartet, Quadrants. Since 2018, Quadrants has performed at many churches and schools and was invited to perform at the 2019 Handbell National Seminar in St Louis, Missouri.
Sharon Schmidt was a member of The Agape Ringers, an auditioned community handbell ensemble from the Chicago area, for 30 years and is Past Chair of Area 8. She previously directed multiple handbell ensembles at Gary United Methodist Church in Wheaton, Illinois, served on the Area 8 Illinois State Committee from 1994–2021, was chair for eleven Distinctly Bronze events, served as Area 8 treasurer for four years, and was the Certification Program Coordinator for five years. Her handbell teaching experience includes numerous local events, events in Areas 1, 5, 7, 8, and 10, multiple National Seminars, a National Festival, and the International Handbell Symposium in 2008.
Brian Seemann lives in Falls Church, Virginia, where he is the Director of Handbell Ensembles at the Landon School in Bethesda, Maryland, and the Music Director of Virginia Bronze. He has been Music Director of the Philadelphia Handbell Ensemble and the New England Ringers, and has performed with Sonos Handbell Ensemble, Back Bay Ringers, and the Philadelphia Handbell Ensemble. Brian is also a published composer and has served as faculty, clinician, and conductor around the US and at several International Handbell Symposia. Outside of handbells, Brian is heavily involved in other aspects of performing arts. He spent four summers marching with the Jersey Surf and Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps and has been on the instructional staff of several high school marching bands and color guards.
Michèle Sharik rings professionally with Sonos Handbell Ensemble, is the founding Artistic Director of Timbré, and is an internationally-renowned handbell soloist, conductor, and teacher. She has played, taught, and/or conducted bells in 39 US states and nine countries. She designed and is the Master Teacher of the Handbell Techniques curriculum for HMA’s certification program. In addition to degrees in computer programming, visual and performing arts, and music technology, she has a master’s certificate in Performing Arts Medicine and is a fervent “evangelist” for safe ringing techniques.
Kimberlee Strepka has been pioneering Laban-based handbell instruction since 2000 and is the author of Handbell Artistry from the Inside Out: Laban Movement Theory for the Handbell Musician (Chicago: GIA Publications, 2012). Kim holds music education degrees from the Hartt School of Music, the University of Massachusetts, and Boston University. She is the Head of School at United Christian Academy in Newport, Vermont, where she has been directing the school’s advanced handbell ensemble, the Bronze Ambassadors, for more than 20 years. The Bronze Ambassadors have made appearances at local, regional, and national HMA events and performed multiple concerts with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.
Sondra Tucker is Handbell Editor for Alfred Handbell, a position she has held for ten years. She is a respected composer, clinician, and conductor and has served the Guild in Areas 9 and 6 in various capacities. She directs the Houston Bronze Ensemble and is honored to be performing with them at this event. Sondra is a retired church musician who nevertheless seems to be working every Sunday. She enjoys playing the organ and collaborating with choirs to provide meaningful music for worship. Sondra’s music degrees are from the University of Arkansas and the University of Memphis.
Karen Van Wert’s (KVW) handbell musical journey began in 1993 as a charter member of the St. Stephen Lutheran Church handbell choir in Bloomington, Minnesota. A few years later, the director “accidentally” bought a bell tree stand and Karen decided she better figure out what to do with this expensive equipment; a passionate bell tree ringer was born. KVW has performed as a soloist throughout the upper Midwest, in addition to a memorable experience in Wittenberg, Germany. Her passion as an educator has resulted in multiple classes shared at area, national, and international venues. In 2019 KVW planned and hosted the inaugural “Into the Forest — exploring among the trees” event to bring bell tree ringers together to share ideas and dream of the future of bell tree musicians. She is ecstatic that the future is now as it unfolds before us.
Kyle Webber is an engaging and charismatic conductor, composer, clinician, and church musician from Farmington Hills, Michigan. He is the Associate Artistic Director of Detroit Handbell Ensemble (under Brenda E. Austin) and the Worship and Arts Director at Royal Oak First United Methodist Church in Royal Oak. Under his baton with Detroit Handbell Ensemble, he helped conduct the opening concert of the 2018 National Seminar and the 2019 Area 2 Festival/Conference. Kyle also served as the Associate Conductor of the 2018 Area 5 Festival/Conference. His other experience includes serving as conductor of the Eaton Rapids Handbell Festival, a teacher at Area 5 handbell events, and clinician at events in the state of Michigan. Kyle recently served on the national board of the Handbell Musicians of America and on the Area 5 board of directors. In 2004, Kyle graduated with a degree in music education from Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana. Upon graduation, Kyle taught middle school band and orchestra until starting a career as a full-time church music director in 2007. In addition to conducting handbells, Kyle is an organist and a pianist and has experience leading modern worship bands and conducting choirs. When Kyle is not working in the church, on the podium, or at the organ, you can find him spending time with his family and friends, watching a good TV series with his wife (if he doesn’t fall asleep!), filling the dog’s Kong with peanut butter, refilling the geriatric cat’s water dish multiple times a day to satisfy her demands for the freshest water possible, and occasionally homebrewing a good batch of beer.
As a director, educator, composer, publisher, ringer, or clinician, Kathleen Wissinger is all about the bells — and bell people! Known for her creative teaching style, clear directing, and engaging compositions, she has led events across the US, Canada, and Japan. She directs Mosaic (a community ensemble) and Gloria Dei (an adult church group). Eighteen years of teaching handbells in the classroom spurred Kath to develop “Square One,” a complete curriculum for first-year ringers. Kath loves writing for a wide range of ringing possibilities: from Level 1 to Level 5; concert, worship, school, festival; bell tree, solo, duet, quartet, and full ensemble; pedagogical works; and songs that incorporate handbells, many released through ringTrue, her publishing company. Kath coordinates the CHIME Loan program for Area 3, has served on the Area 3 Board for eight years, often serves as a mentor to ringers, directors, and composers (in person and on Zoom), and helps organize new events. A former National Park Service Ranger with a degree in geology, she lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where she has taught piano lessons for 30+ years and makes world-famous bread and butter pickles. Contact her at Longwalk3@aol.com.
Justin Wooten hails from the western foothills of North Carolina, just an hour north of Charlotte, in a small sleepy town called Union Grove. After finishing a high school career dominated by athletics, Justin switched gears, started working in regional professional theaters across the U.S., and went to Elon University, where he received a degree in music theater. Immediately after college, he moved to Los Angeles for the sunny days, bodacious beaches, and active lifestyle. While soaking up the rays, he became a fitness trainer; teaching classes, training fitness enthusiasts and celebrities, and learning as much about the human body was just a typical day in the life of. Throughout all his adventures in life, handbells has always been a constant. He began playing handbells at the ripe old age of 7 years old. Even after moving to L.A., he played with L.A. Bronze under the leadership of Linda Krantz. In 2020, during the pandemic, Justin moved back to North Carolina, where he immediately joined Charlotte Bronze under the direction of Tim Waugh. His one rule in life is: “If it’s heavy, try to pick it up. If it’s too light, make it heavier. If it’s too heavy, get stronger.” This should explain why he only hangs out in the low bass. Post-pandemic, Justin has traded in the big city vibes for the quiet country lifestyle. He continues to pick up heavy things, set them down, then repeat as many times as possible. He also runs his own studio, where he teaches others to do the same. On top of all of that, he lives on a farm with cows, donkeys, dogs, watermelons, blueberries, and a friendly family of raccoons in his backyard.