by Mya Dundzila

As a handbell director, your span of influence can go way beyond bells. My first handbell director taught me to ring, but she also taught me to care for the bells and care for other ringers. She introduced the power of a group and revealed to us what a bunch of junior high kids could do if we just showed up and paid attention.

Mya Dundzila
Regional Membership Coordinator

My first director took me to my first handbell festival which was an Area 9 event in San Antonio with Bill Griffin. The next year, she told me about a youth ringing opportunity in the Southeast US where an auditioned choir of high school ringers toured and performed in several cities in Alabama and Louisiana. I applied and was accepted to this group—what an enriching, educational trip for a 10th grader in the late 1970s.

My first director set the frame of reference from which I would view all future handbell experiences. She showed flexibility when the music changed for Sunday’s service; she adapted our repertoire when we could only field a small ensemble; and she demonstrated compassion for life experiences that caused ringers to miss rehearsals. She also taught me to drive a stick shift car and sacrificed part of her transmission in the parking lot of Broken Arrow First United Methodist Church — but that’s another story.

Thank you, Linda Cheatham, for giving me a passion and hobby that has lasted a lifetime!

Occasionally, Linda would relate stories from her own handbell history. As a young ringer, she and her choir carried their bells into Carlsbad Caverns and performed a concert. The bells were tied onto string that looped through the sleeves of the ringers’ coats. Who organized this adventure? Linda’s first handbell director, of course. So, I am benefitting not only from Linda’s dedication to my first handbell group but also from the time and creativity from Linda’s first director — see how far a director’s influence can reach?

Like many youth, I eventually moved on to college where I joined a nearby bell choir with a different director, different bells, and a different style. In this case, the director took a huge leap of faith to rely on me, an unknown ringer and college freshman with many new competing priorities. It would have been easier to sleep late and hang around the dorm, but Linda’s early investment was enough encouragement to continue ringing. The summer after my junior year, Linda suggested we meet at a national seminar and planted the idea that national events could be positive experiences — with or without a full choir. We still exchange bell stories and struggles, decades after my first handbell rehearsal.

Every future move would find me in yet another bell choir, adapting to a new group and learning from a new director. In the infrequent locations when there was not a bell choir to join, I would apply the lessons learned from previous bell directors: be punctual, be committed, be open to new ideas and new people.

One of the most important ways directors influence their ringers is by sharing opportunities. In many choirs, the director may be the only member of Handbell Musicians of America and the only recipient of national and area ringing and learning events. Please share this event information — everyone wins when ringers gain experience!

View every rehearsal and every performance as an opportunity to influence others: the handbell musicians under your care, the audience in attendance, and the environment in which you serve (school/church/community). Your legacy could be a well-structured rehearsal, a perfect concert, or unexpected influence on many future handbell ringers.

Mya Dundzila
mdundzila@handbellmusicians.org

My first director took me to my first handbell festival which was an Area 9 event in San Antonio with Bill Griffin. The next year, she told me about a youth ringing opportunity in the Southeast US where an auditioned choir of high school ringers toured and performed in several cities in Alabama and Louisiana. I applied and was accepted to this group—what an enriching, educational trip for a 10th grader in the late 1970s.

My first director set the frame of reference from which I would view all future handbell experiences. She showed flexibility when the music changed for Sunday’s service; she adapted our repertoire when we could only field a small ensemble; and she demonstrated compassion for life experiences that caused ringers to miss rehearsals. She also taught me to drive a stick shift car and sacrificed part of her transmission in the parking lot of Broken Arrow First United Methodist Church — but that’s another story.

Thank you, Linda Cheatham, for giving me a passion and hobby that has lasted a lifetime!

Occasionally, Linda would relate stories from her own handbell history. As a young ringer, she and her choir carried their bells into Carlsbad Caverns and performed a concert. The bells were tied onto string that looped through the sleeves of the ringers’ coats. Who organized this adventure? Linda’s first handbell director, of course. So, I am benefitting not only from Linda’s dedication to my first handbell group but also from the time and creativity from Linda’s first director — see how far a director’s influence can reach?

Like many youth, I eventually moved on to college where I joined a nearby bell choir with a different director, different bells, and a different style. In this case, the director took a huge leap of faith to rely on me, an unknown ringer and college freshman with many new competing priorities. It would have been easier to sleep late and hang around the dorm, but Linda’s early investment was enough encouragement to continue ringing. The summer after my junior year, Linda suggested we meet at a national seminar and planted the idea that national events could be positive experiences — with or without a full choir. We still exchange bell stories and struggles, decades after my first handbell rehearsal.

Every future move would find me in yet another bell choir, adapting to a new group and learning from a new director. In the infrequent locations when there was not a bell choir to join, I would apply the lessons learned from previous bell directors: be punctual, be committed, be open to new ideas and new people.

One of the most important ways directors influence their ringers is by sharing opportunities. In many choirs, the director may be the only member of Handbell Musicians of America and the only recipient of national and area ringing and learning events. Please share this event information — everyone wins when ringers gain experience!

View every rehearsal and every performance as an opportunity to influence others: the handbell musicians under your care, the audience in attendance, and the environment in which you serve (school/church/community). Your legacy could be a well-structured rehearsal, a perfect concert, or unexpected influence on many future handbell ringers.

Mya Dundzila
mdundzila@handbellmusicians.org

Mya Dundzila
Regional Membership Coordinator


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