Teaching Handbells/Handchimes as a Catalyst for Lifelong Musicianship

Teaching Handbells/Handchimes
as a Catalyst for Lifelong Musicianship

By NAfME Member William Brandt 

Music is something that exists in almost every facet of our daily lives. It is present at shopping malls, in the car, at sporting events, and of course, in the music classroom. It is the job of the music educator to excite and engage students in an active participation in music, with the ultimate goal of a music educator being to develop students who become lifelong musicians. This means that even after a student leaves your musical classroom, they will still continue to take an active role in making music. Music educators promote lifelong musicianship in several ways: through exposing students to a variety of music cultures, musical instruments, and musical styles that exist within their communities. The NAfME 2014 Standards address the ideas of lifelong musicianship in the category of “Connecting” as such:

“Understanding connections to varied contexts and daily life enhances musicians’ creating, performing, and responding.

Many music educators choose to address this standard by providing videos or demonstrations of instruments, taking field trips to see performances such as a musical or opera, and more. However, one instrument group that educators should remember and consider are handbells and handchimes. These pitched percussion instruments can be used as a great catalyst for developing students’ lifelong musicianship.

handbells sheet music
iStockphoto.com | justsolove

Connecting Schools to Communities 

Many teachers decide not to traverse the world of handbells/chimes because they do not feel it has a prominent place in our musical community. This is a common misconception as, according to data provided by the Handbell Musicians of America, handbell ensembles are prevalent in many communities throughout the United States. These ensembles take the forms of church ensembles, community ensembles, and even professional ensembles. Digressing back to the Standards, another NAfME music standard addresses the importance of preparing students for music-making opportunities outside of the school building’s walls. The standard states:

“Demonstrate understanding of relationships between music and the other arts, other disciplines, varied contexts, and daily life” (MU:Cn11.0.PKa)

To fully realize this standard, it is my assertion that we must discuss musical instruments that are not only long-standing staples of the formal music-making world, but also prominent community music-making opportunities in which our students may potentially engage.

handbells
iStockphoto.com | gwmullis

Where to Start 

Many directors might find themselves at a loss when it comes to introducing students to the world of handbells. Thankfully, there are many resources that can be used to help settle teachers’ unease. There are several organizations of handbell ringers and teachers in the country that provide great resources to break into the handbell world. One resource educators can use is the ChimeWorks company, which provides educators with handbell resources, mentorship opportunities, and even lesson plan sequences. Lastly, one cannot overstate the opportunity we can provide students by reaching out to a handbell ensemble in your area. Put simply, to develop a student who will engage in music-making outside of the school building’s walls we must expose them to musical opportunities that exist outside of those walls.

 

About the author:

Billy BrandtNAfME member William (Billy) Brandt is a graduating senior from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh with an undergraduate degree in Music Education; certified PreK–12 Choral/General. Despite being a full-time student teacher, Brandt is very active in the field. He has served four years as an Instructor of Music Literacy and online content specialist for the Badger State Girl Choir under the direction of Dr. Kevin Meidl. Brandt also serves as the Director of Choirs for UCC-New London, serving with renowned handbell arranger Sandra Eithun, and has worked several times as a contractor for the Appleton Boy Choir.

Outside of his burgeoning teaching career, Brandt is also an avid writer within the field of music education. His first book entitled Let’s Talk: Music was published in the fall of 2021.

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April 28, 2022. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)