2023-25 Area 6 Board
Gary Bynum has been involved in handbell programs since the fourth grade. His experience with various church choirs lead to his involvement in the founding of The Metropolitan Bells, Chattanooga’s advanced community handbell ensemble, in 1993. After ringing in the group for 10 years, Gary assumed the role of music director, a position he still holds today. He is co-chair of the annual Chattanooga Area Handbell Festival, Performance Coordinator for Handbell Musicians of America’s National Seminar, and Associate Director of Music at Christ United Methodist Church in Chattanooga. Gary holds a BS in Computer Science from the University of Tennessee and a Masters of Business Administration from UTC. He is a lifelong resident of Chattanooga and is Manager of Marketing Operations for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.
Les Beaver has been ringing handbells since 1991 while in college where he also marched drums in the band and participated in the theatre department. Since that time, he has rung with choirs in Nashville and Knoxville. For thirteen years he directed The Rings of the Lord at Bearden United Methodist, and now sings and rings regularly with Concord United Methodist Church while subbing at many other churches. He and his wife Neri serve on the board for Smoky Mountain Ring (Knox Area Handbell Festival) and are presently organizing a new auditioned community choir in the Knoxville area which they hope to have up and running in late 2023. Les has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Mississippi State University and is currently a Senior Electrical Engineer for Knoxville Utilities Board. In his free time, he enjoys reading, hiking, and working with the local Boy Scout council.
Becky Price has 37 years of experience in accounting. She has been ringing handbells for 25 years, and has been with The Metropolitan Bells in Chattanooga since 2008. While not the current treasurer of The Mets, she served as their treasurer for several years. When she’s not ringing, she enjoys traveling, sewing, quilting, and painting. She is married and has two adult children.
Beth Wilson is, first and foremost, a self-proclaimed “bell hog”. Beth was born and raised in Central Arkansas, where she is an active member of several handbell choirs and ensembles along with serving on both the Arkansas State and the Area IV Handbell Boards. After graduating from Hendrix College with a BA in Psychology, she returned to play, teach and direct handbells in her home church, Searcy First United Methodist Church. Inspired by Beth’s love of handbells, her husband, daughter, and son-in-law all have become handbell enthusiasts. She oversees the legal research department for a well-established financial institution in her hometown. She lives with her husband of 11 years and enjoys her grandbabies, her fur babies, and lake days.
Alabama State Chair
Heather Batchelor began ringing bells at the age of 10 with her TN church’s youth handbell choir. She continued playing throughout high school and college and also when she relocated to Alabama. She has been ringing with Huntsville’s Heritage Ringers community handbell choir since 2006 and also directs the handbell choir at Asbury Church. She has trained with wonderful handbell aficionados including Michael Glasgow, Fred Gramman, Cynthia Dobrinski, Lee Afdahl, Valerie Stephenson, and Dave Harris. In addition to directing the handbell choir, Heather is on staff at Asbury, serving on the Operations and Traditional Worship Teams. She enjoys facilitating KIDS’ choirs, playing percussion in Asbury’s orchestra, and singing in the choir and women’s ensemble. Heather also serves as President of the Tennessee Valley Handbell Association. An avid reader and foodie, she enjoys traveling the world with family and friends to discover new foods and cultures. She has been married to Mike since 1993 and has 2 adult sons and one soon-to-be daughter-in-law.
Arkansas State Chair
Lisa Hester is Organist and Accompanist at Village United Methodist Church in Hot Springs Village, AR, and also serves as the Communication Coordinator for the church. In 2019, Lisa received certification as a United Methodist Church Musician from the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church after completing education requirements at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL. Prior to serving at Village UMC, she was Director of Music Ministries and Organist at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Little Rock where she directed the St. Paul Ringers. In earlier days, she was active in the handbell program at her home church First United Methodist Church, Benton, Arkansas. Lisa is the current Chairperson of the Arkansas Chapter of the Handbell Musicians of America and is a member of the Handbell Musicians of America, The Fellowship of Worship Arts, the Presbyterian Association of Musicians, and the American Guild of Organists. A self-taught organist, Lisa is a lifelong resident of Benton, and has held other church music positions in Benton, Bryant, and Little Rock, Arkansas, along with working in community music offerings such as being the Music Director/Accompanist for the Saline County Royal Players’ production of The Sound of Music, Godspell and Scrooge, the Musical.
Louisiana State Chair
Barbara Williams has had a love of handbells since Madeline Woodland directed her church bell choirs. She was jealous because she was unable to attend the daytime (only) rehearsals as a busy young mother with a full-time career in teaching. She was blessed to know Madeline and sing in her Chancel Choir during that time. Eventually, she was able to join the bell choir when on sabbatical from teaching, and later, when an evening bell choir was added. She took advantage of opportunities to travel to local, regional, and even national festivals and smaller events with her choir. Through the years, she has rung under some awesome handbell musicians, composers, and conductors: William Payne, Don Allured, Felix and Martha Lynn Thompson, Cynthia Dobrinski, William Griffith, Fred Gramman, Jason Krug, Grieg Ashurst, David Harris, Michael Hellman, Ed Rollins, and Stephanie Rhoades. What a wonderful world of music! Most of her music training and experience came as a vocal musician, singing with church, community, and semi-professional chorales, most notable the New Orleans Vocal Arts Chorale (NOVA) from 2001 to 2020. She was a chorus member, sometimes soloist, and board member of that organization, working primarily with Dr. Meg Hulley Frazier of Loyola University. In 2013, Barbara’s church bell director moved and she assumed that role. She immediately went to the AGEHR/HMA website to join and connect with the handbell community. A few months later Barbara and one other ringer attended the Hattiesburg Festival. She am a strong proponent of HMA; it offers a full range of resources and opportunities for handbell musicians. This membership has allowed her to grow as a musician, particularly as a director and has provided great experiences for our ringers as well. She is excited to return to the Area 6 Board for another term as Louisiana State Chair. She hopes the Board can reach out to more handbell musicians and recruit more ringers and choirs in Louisiana where music is so much a part of the culture.
Mississippi State Chair
Tennessee State Chair
Carole Millard is a retired medical technologist from Chattanooga, TN. She has 18 years of handbell experience. Currently she is a member of the Metropolitan Bells, an auditioned community ensemble. She also rings with her church handbell choir.
Neri Beaver grew up in Northwest Pennsylvania. Attending the Area 2 North Hills Handbell Festival was a childhood highlight! (She attended her first festival at 3 weeks old and hung out under the table while her mom rang in rehearsals!) Neri’s mom was a handbell director and Neri learned to ring at a very young age along with her older siblings. In fact, it has been a family joke that none of them were allowed out of the womb unless they agreed to ring bells! In adulthood, Neri worked closely with soloist and composer/arranger Sue Garton to learn solo ringing. When Neri moved to Knoxville and searched for a handbell choir, this led her to meeting her now-husband Les. Currently Les and Neri serve on the committee for Smoky Mountain Ring (Knox Area Handbell Festival), ring together with the Concord United handbell choir, and Neri teaches the children’s handbell choir. Neri is eager to become even more involved with the Area 6 community. Outside the handbell world, Neri has earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology/Infant Mental Health Counseling. Currently she is working towards licensure in Tennessee for Marriage and Family Therapy.
Communications Chair / Webmaster
Melissa Emerson is Director of Music Ministries at Calvary United Methodist Church in Nashville, where she oversees a vibrant multi-faceted ministry which includes vocal choirs, handbells, and brass. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Horn Performance and K-12 Teaching Certificate from The University of Iowa, and a Master of Sacred Music with an emphasis in Choral Conducting from Boston University School of Theology. She is an accomplished French horn player, and in her spare time competes in triathlons.