College Ring-In, 2017
In an effort to build for the future of handbell, Houston Bronze granted three scholarships to college students to attend College Ring-In, 2017 in Dallas, Texas. Two of the winners are students at Baylor University and are from Texas. The third scholarship winner is a student at Syracuse University and is from California. The students were asked to share something about their experiences and to post pictures on our Facebook page. We share those experiences with you. We were so happy to help each of these students. We look forward to doing this again.
The college ring-in was an experience that took my love and appreciation for ringing to new heights. To begin with, it gave me a much better appreciation for just how lucky I have been to grow up in bell programs that really developed my skills, without them I would not have been able to focus so much on improving my musicianship throughout the ring-in. It gave me the opportunity to ring amongst some of the most skilled ringers my age and learn from those who have been ringing on a national level for years. The repertoire was highly advanced with lots of mixed meter, really pushing my abilities as a musician to the next level ringing four in hand in such difficult pieces. The part I enjoyed the most was being in an environment where everyone had a true passion and talent for ringing, allowing me to focus more on musical refinement with precision as a whole and as Michael Joy put it, really “feeling the music” rather than just reading notes off the page. I have already begun to take this experience and translate it into ringing within the Baylor group. The experience has fine tuned my attention to detail and has pushed me to take ringing in my life down a more serious path. If anything, this event really opened my eyes to the world of handbells beyond my church or my school and has given me the ability to stick my foot in the door for other national events in the future.
CRI was quite the experience for me... I've only been ringing consistently since August 2016 (before which I'd had minimal experience around handbells, though having an extensive musical background served as a wonderful catalyst), so I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I arrived in Dallas. I was pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of everyone there. Being a bit of an introvert, I try to avoid situations with lots of new people. However, our collective interest in music and ringing served as an ice-breaker.
One of the things I enjoyed most about CRI while I was there was the incredible musicality of all the musicians. It's a thrilling experience to be surrounded by musicians who are so keyed into the music. The repertoire was so amazing, I couldn't pick a single favorite... Among my top choices were "Beach Spring," "Rondo and Passacaglia," and "Invocation."
The experience I gained over the three days, has encouraged me to pursue any opportunity to mentor other musicians. One such example is teaching new ringers about the basics of handbells and encouraging their interest. Mentoring others through music has been a passion of mine, and I believe my experiences with CRI have given me a wider scope through which I can help others.
While in Dallas I learned more than I thought possible, and considering I haven’t been playing bells regularly, I went into it with the impression that I had a lot to learn. I don’t I think I have ever rang with people so passionate and so much more advanced than I dreamed I’d be. The energy in the room when we played together was palpable; everyone in the room was connected with the music and with each other, and the level of teamwork and cooperation was so high and everything just felt so natural.
Handbells is about so much more than playing the notes we see on the page, and we took it beyond. We touched on every aspect of the music, feeling the rhythms, tapping the timing, sensing movement, and listening carefully to balance each other while we took our cues from Michael Joy and his exceptional conducting. I learned that when you really look at everything the composer has put on the page, it paints a clearer picture in your head of what’s going on (be it what they were thinking when they wrote it or what you’re imagining in your own mind), and that gives emotional enrichment to the music that you make.
But having had close to 17 hours of rehearsal over the course of two and a half days, it was also quite the physical workout. I thought the way we warmed up before ringing by awakening the qi with exercises was very interesting, and it seemed to translate well into our ringing. We talked about the idea of the body being an instrument, and the body being an extension of the bell, as well as how we use our sagittal space to augment transitions in the music. That really resonated with me because watching everyone else and their different styles of ringing, I saw how much ringing is a visual art form as much as it is aural.
Going to College Ring-In really re-ignited my passion for handbells, because I forgot how much fun it can be to figure out the challenges that the music brings. At the first rehearsal I was a little apprehensive to play, because I was in the presence of people whose lives are basically handbells. I questioned myself and hesitated while the notes of Beach Spring and Down the River flew past, but by our final performance of the pieces, I was right in the middle of it all, because I stopped being worrying about being wrong and just gave in to the flow.
Needless to say, without College Ring-In, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to spend time working with and learning from other amazing musicians, becoming a better ringer and sharing my passion in the process. It was wonderful that this event was able to bring together young people in the handbell community to ring together and create friendships and talk about new ideas. It was a great musical moment for me, and I’m going to keep trying to get the handbell choir at Syracuse started up again, because I think I would miss bells too much if I didn’t.