Reply To: Handbells in Public School?
I second the handchime idea. They do not need a padded table and use the same general techniques as handbells. Since the idea of handbells was brought up early on, you can suggest to your administration to start with handchimes to build the program and add bells later down the road. The timbres of handbells and chimes together can add a lot to your ensemble once it has been established and developed.
A lot can be said for the individual responsibility in a handbell ensemble. A melody will not be carried by one or two of your strongest (and loudest) players, but rather the whole group. And age only seems to give an advantage! Younger students are not confused by the uniqueness of the instrument and can play very musically! My second graders go caroling at Christmas time with handchimes and “ring-a-long” books.
I ring for the Philadelphia Handbell Ensemble and we have a Chime Donation Program where we are actively looking for schools that want to develop a program. It is part of our educational mission statement. I would bet that there are some ensembles in your area that have a similar program. We also offer a student-focused festival event where the primary goal is to help younger ringers develop technique and encourage them in their ensembles! Look for a community/professional ensemble in your area that might be willing to help you out and offer advice!