Reaching for Bronze: An opportunity for the level 2-3 ringer to progress to level 4+ music.

You may have heard of Distinctly Bronze (DB), the Handbell Musicians of America’s (HMA) advanced ringing event that takes place twice a year, once on either coast. A couple of years ago, HMA started a new program, Reaching for Bronze, a program for advanced-intermediate ringers, that coincides with Distinctly Bronze East (DBE). This year, DBE and Reaching for Bronze will take place February 24-27, 2022, in the quaint town of New Bern, North Carolina.

Reaching for Bronze (RFB) is unique in that its goal is to take ringers to their next level, whatever that means for each individual ringer. I rang in the inaugural Reaching for Bronze in 2019. I know that they have worked to make the program even better since then, but even the inaugural event was a terrific learning opportunity.

For the first RFB, the committee selected the clinician, Michael Joy, for his ability to instruct, break things down into clearly understood pieces, and conduct a group full of diverse ability levels. They could not have selected a better person for the job! Next year’s director, Kathryn Jurado, is another fabulous choice. These clinicians, who are educators as well as musicians, are specially chosen for this position to fulfill the program’s unique educational mission.

The RFB is responsible for learning several pieces, levels 3-4. Ringers prepare their parts independently ahead of time, then rehearsals are used to pull the whole choir together. Ultimately, RFB will perform several pieces together with the advanced group, then also perform a couple of pieces as a solo choir. This last bit can be intimidating, but the more people who sign up, the more chance there is to have multiple choirs playing these pieces, building in even more confidence for the ringers.

Along the way, RFB will have time to observe DBE rehearsals and work on individual skills, according to the needs of the RFB group. This is an excellent opportunity for level 2-3 ringers to challenge themselves with more difficult music while surrounded by people willing to offer tips, tricks, and techniques for playing more advanced music. For those ringers who are the more advanced ringers in a choir, where they may not have much chance to grow, this weekend can provide incredible opportunities and exposure to tap into the potential hidden inside each of us.

If you choose to apply for RFB, you should be aware of a few things. First, the rehearsals are long and tiring. Be sure you are physically fit enough to stand for several hours at a time. Second, you must have time to practice the music ahead of time. You may only be able to “air bell” your practice, but you must put in the effort.  You cannot arrive at the first rehearsal and try to sightread the music. Finally, you must have a sense of humor and a willingness to fail yet move on. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you end up struggling.  Your goal is to stretch and progress, not be perfect in every way. Although you want to end up in a place of confidence, if you are truly prepared for RFB, you genuinely want to move your skills forward, and you are willing to work hard, you will be rewarded with increased skills, increased confidence, and the pride that comes with significant accomplishment. Perhaps you will even be ready to try out DBWest the following fall.

Come join us. Take the next step. Grab on to the challenge.

~ Sheri Roach, Area 6 Chair