Handbells in Public School?
June 11, 2012 at 11:20 am #6500
I’ve interviewed for a job at a public charter middle school, and they’ve never had an instrumental general music person (I’m a band person), and one of the suggestions in the interview was to start a handbell group, since band equipment is so expensive. Yeah, that didn’t make sense to me either. A good set of bells for a reasonably small group runs about 9 grand from Malmark. I have played handbells practically all my life, and I’ve been to many handbell conventions, so I know people do it for cheaper. Maybe I can’t escape the bell price, but what about tables, pads, stands, gloves, etc.? What homemade solutions have you come up with? The best 2 I’d heard of came from my former director: he fashioned the tables himself and gave them removable legs that would easily fit into the tabletop for storage and transport, and his wife sewed an entire set of bell table covers that had velcro skirts to cover the homemade tables; the end result was very professional. I’m not sure how much it cost them or how long it took, or where they got the materials, but I’d be interested to hear what other homemade solutions are out there for (cheap) handbell choir. Thank you!June 11, 2012 at 4:46 pm #6517
I don’t know if this might work, but you have a small budget you might want to look into hand chimes or tone chimes http://www.suzukimusic.com/education/tonechimes/ which are MUCH more affordable than traditional handbells. They have a similar timbre to handbells, and they’re played in a similar way and you’d be teaching pretty much the same skills through using them. Plus, I would think they’d be a lot easier to maintain with middle schoolers using them–they don’t tarnish from oils from the hands like handbells do, so you don’t have to worry about gloves… I would also think that they’re a lot sturdier, in case one of them gets dropped, and since they lay flat on a table, you don’t need to worry about the special pads. There are a few videos on YouTube of school and church groups using tone chimes where you can hear how they sound–here is one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHDL6yq5HsEJune 11, 2012 at 8:08 pm #6520
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!June 11, 2012 at 8:12 pm #6521
One more thing!!
Paul K. Weller is a huge advocate of handbells/chimes in music education. Here is a link to his website where you can download his workshop handouts/notes. His use is beyond ensemble but you can show your administration of the potential for general music use also.June 14, 2012 at 1:42 pm #6761
Hand chimes would be a great start. I own a set of Malmark choir chimes that I have been using with my general music middle school students for @ 10 years! Packaway Folding Tables that are similar to tables campers use may be helpful. When playing chimes at their desks, students use cut strips of the gripper shelf and drawer liner to provide a soft surface for the instrument. The “grippers” as I call them also help prevent the chimes from sliding off the desks.
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