Gem State Academy Hosts Cool Ringings Handbell and Chimes Festival

What do you do with two music teachers, two and a half days, and 101 elementary students on your hands? Why, you teach them to play bells of course! Just borrow 12 bell and chime sets, enlist the help of 12 high school students, take over both music building and the gymnasium, and watch out! You’ve got one wild experience on your hands.

It started out as a small idea between Ben Purvis, the music director at Gem State Academy (GSA), and Phyllis Tincher, a fellow bell ringer (and past President of the Northwest Division of the National Handbell Association). On Jan. 23 the fun began. Senior Amy Purvis, and I were assigned to the music building teaching musical games, while Purvis and Tincher were over in the gym helping them learn to play. The Gem State bell choir students were split between the two buildings as assistants.

We started out Thursday night with about 30 students at a time. Our job was to introduce them to music so that they could start playing the bells and chimes by the next day. Some of them had never seen music before. But after a lot of fun, and some crazy games designed to teach note values, timing, and rhythm, they began their journey into the world of music. Amazingly enough, these same kids were actually playing songs on the bells and chimes by the end of the festival with a huge concert for the parents on Sabbath afternoon. Those two days of practice had really paid off!

I’ll never forget that weekend. Fun games, good food, free t-shirts, tons of new kids to meet and have fun with, great devotional times, lots of learning, and of course, the music. •

Featured in: April 2003