How To Spend An Entire Month Traveling For Handbells

Posted By Derek Nance on Jul 22, 2014 | 3 comments

A year ago at National Seminar I had a thought; is it possible to make handbells my career and not just a hobby.  At that point it was just a fleeting thought, but over the past year the idea has been growing.  After spending the past month criss-crossing the country with handbells I think I have figured out how make it happen.
Here is the detailed account of my last month.

Thursday, June 19th, 4:00am – After performing at a Reno Aces game the previous night, my handbell director Barb and myself got up to drive to San Louis Obisbo for the Area 12 Handbell Conference.  Eight hours and several coffee stops later we made it in time to help set up and unload.  I was there to teach weaving all weekend.  The conference was small and intimate with barely 100 participants, but everyone had a blast.  I even got to perform with Bell Appeal, which fans of the blog will recall is one of my favorite ensembles.  So needless to say, I had a good time.  We did however have to skip the massed ringing on Sunday and head home because…

Monday, June 23rd, 1:00pmTintabulations, my home group, met for one final rehearsal and bell polishing session before starting our cross country tour.  Michael Glasgow had been bugging our group for years to come and perform at his church in Raleigh, North Carolina, so we finally planned the trip and made it happen.  Monday was spent packing, rehearsing, polishing, and driving to Sacramento.  For the record, it is much cheaper to fly from Sacramento, California to Raleigh than it is to fly from Reno, Nevada to Raleigh.  We only had one car break down that day.

Tuesday, June 24th, 4:00am – Flight to Raleigh, North Carolina.  Thanks to Southwest’s 2-free-bags policy we were able to bring our own bells to Raleigh.  In case your group ever flies, the heaviest Port-a-bell case in the 5 octave set is 49.5 pounds, which is under the Southwest weight limit!  Immediately after arriving in Raleigh and renting the cars that would be our home for a week we were whisked away by Michael Glasgow for a party with the ringers from North Raleigh United Methodist Church.  They certainly know how to welcome visitors.

What happened after that was a week of crazy travel.  We performed six concerts in eight days all over Northern North Carolina and Virginia.  Thanks to the generosity of bell groups along the way who fed and housed us the trip was incredibly affordable.  There were several concerts that stand out in my mind.  Our first concert was at Pfeiffer University in Richfield, North Carolina for a youth music camp.  The kids there were incredible and a blast to perform for.  They cheered after every number and came up after the concert to hug all of us.  Our final concert at Micheal’s Church was just as awesome, but for other reasons.  Michael brought out nearly 200 people to our concert, including over half of the Raleigh Ringers.  The audience response to our concert was so supportive and appreciative that we could have played all night long had we had more music in our folders.

Tuesday, July 1st, 4:00am – Headed to the airport for a full day of travel to make it back to Reno.  Apparently I always end up getting out of bed far too early in the morning when I travel.

The next few days were full of packing and saying goodbye to all my friends in Reno because…

Saturday, July 5th, 6:00am – I let myself sleep in, then got up to start the long drive across the country to Philadelphia.  Brian Seemann and I had started a conversation in December about the possibility of me moving to Philadelphia to explore the East Coast side of handbell ringing.  Since I am a born and raised West Coast kid, the opportunity seemed ideal.  Brian had a place for me to stay and a group to ring with, which is all a handbell fanatic really needs.  I hoped a job would come down the pipeline eventually, especially since Brian wanted rent money.

Wednesday, July 9th, really late at night – I arrive in Philadelphia in a poring rainstorm attempting to navigate all the road construction on 76 or what ever East Coast people call that road, since apparently no one uses highway numbers on this side of the country.  Since I had now crossed every time zone in the United States three times by this point, my body had no concept of time.  But there was no rest for the weary because the next morning I was up early to interview at Schulmerich for a sales position.  One of the coolest things about Philadelphia is that both of the handbell companies, Schulmerich and Malmark, are located in the area.  So I was hoping I could maybe land a job with one of them.

Sunday, July 13th, 11:00am – Unfortunately all I had time for was a handbell concert by the Capital City Ringers who were passing through the area and my first professional sports game at Phillie’s Stadium before I was back on a plane to Atlanta, Georgia.  Those of you who are members of Handbell Musicians of America might have noticed that I was elected to the National Board this past April (thank you to everyone who voted for me!), so I had to be at National Seminar a day early for training.  After a day of learning the ins and outs of Policy Governance, a topic that would put any non-business major to sleep, Seminar began.  National Seminar was just as incredible and overwhelming the second time around as it was the first.  I got the chance to catch up with so many friends, and I made lots on new ones along the way.

This time I also auditioned and made it into the All Star group.  Emily Li and Hart Morris conducted the group this year.  You could not choose two conductors who are more different.  Each had their own unique style, which made the whole experience even more incredible.  The ringers around me were stunning and a pleasure to work with.  Here is the All Star group ringing Hart Morris’s “Buggie Woogie Bugle Boy”.

National Seminar was more than just playing, however.  I got the chance to network with all sorts of people from all corners of the handbell world and plan out stories for the future here on the blog.  We also got to see some incredible performances, including the Arsis Youth Handbell Ensemble.  I did a whole post earlier explaining why I was excited to see the concert, and we were not disappointed.  Four encores later we finally let them leave the stage and end the Seminar.

During the week, Schulmerich also offered me a job doing sales and marketing, thus making the bet of moving to Philadelphia pay off.  The whole week was a blur and before I knew it…

Saturday, July 19th, 6:00am – I overslept my alarm, ran to the train station, made it through the Atlanta airport and flew back to Philadelphia, which is now home.  It was weird flying home to an airport that doesn’t have slot machines in it.

So one month and 15 states after the crazy traveling started I am now settling down in Philadelphia to start making handbells my career.  It is crazy how much someone’s life could change in one year.  If you would have told me a year ago that I would be touring the country, elected to the Nation Board, and starting with Schulmerich, I would have told you that you were crazy.  So who knows what the future will hold, but I look forward to taking you all along with me for the ride.

Also, this post is to apologize for not posting this past month.  The results of the first ever World’s Greatest Handbell Competition are being tallied now, so that post will be up shortly.  Plus I’ve got a whole list if ideas, so regular posts will be starting back up again soon.  Thank you all for being patient with us!