Registration is open for the second College Ring-In, January 4-6 in Dallas, Texas. The first College Ring-In last January was honestly one of the best handbell experiences I’ve been able to attend, right up there with Virtuoso and my first National Seminar. So I am unapologetic in pushing every ringer I meet into going to this event. In case you needed more incentive to register, here are the top 10 reasons to go to the College Ring-In:
- Connecting with other ringers your age – Let’s face it, college aged and young adult ringers are typically either the oldest participants at a “youth” festival or youngest participants at a regular bell event. At the College Ring-In there is no specific age limits, but most of the participants were between 18-25 (at 28 I was the oldest participant). It was refreshing to play bells with peers who were enthusiastic about this art form.
- Michael Joy – Mike will be back on the podium this year, and those of us who went last year couldn’t be more excited. Besides hitting the perfect balance between teaching about ringing and pushing us musically, he connected wonderfully with all of the participants. He genuinely enjoyed working with the energetic, sometimes unruly, group and lead us to create beautiful music.
- New music by young composers – This year’s repertoire list features three 20-something composers; Resilience by Alex Guebert, A Licolnshire Dance Song by Mitchell Eithum, and Beach Spring by Matthew Compton. All three of these pieces exemplify new works by new composers and show that young musicians don’t just want to play pop arrangements on bells.
- Unpublished reading session – The reading session turned out to the be highlight of the festival last January. When designing the College Ring-In, we wanted to include a chance for college composers to receive feedback on their compositions, since we knew that many college groups write and arrange their own music (maybe now is a good time to put a disclaimer that I was part of the initial creation of this event, but now the event is wholly run by Handbell Musicians of America). The pieces submitted last year were surprisingly diverse and incredibly well written. In fact, two of the pieces read through at College Ring-In went onto be picked up by publishers. I can’t wait to see what pieces we discover this year.
- Price – One of the main goals of the College Ring-In was to keep costs as low as possible by keeping the festival bare-bones and scrappy. By holding the festival in a church and soliciting sponsorships from groups around the country, the registration cost for the four day event is only $83 for members of Handbell Musicians of America ($93 for non-members). Compared to the nearly $400 registration for National Seminar, College Ring-In in a bargain. Plus, lodging is reasonable. If 4 people share a room for 3 nights, the cost for lodging comes out to $81.75 per person. People going on their own can contact the event organizers or send us an email here and we’ll try and hook you up with roommates for the event (I think there’s a place on the registration form for that). The whole goal is to help reduce the cost as much as possible!
- Scholarships – While the event is too new to have a scholarship program at the national level yet, groups are stepping up around the country to help their ringers make it to the event. I know several people who were assisted by their school or group in getting to the event last year. Also, the Houston Bronze Ensemble is offering 3 scholarships to cover the cost of registration to any student in the country. You can find more details and apply by December 1 on their website.
- Schedule – The first weekend in January was picked to correspond to most winter breaks. For college students, I know most of you will be sick of your parents by that point in winter break, so what better excuse to leave home a few days early do you need?!
- Pushing yourself musically – Here’s where I admit that I didn’t practice my music nearly enough last year. Even though the experience level of the musicians in the room ranged from beginners to experts, somehow we all came together to make beautiful music quickly. Everyone embraced the challenge and put their heart into ringing as best they could. I think the most striking thing about ringing in a roomful of young adults was the fearlessness of everyone. That kind of ringing you don’t get to experience very often.
- Making new friends – Did I mention that everyone becomes great friends by the end? I still keep in touch with many of the amazing people I met at last year’s event.
- FUN!!! – Unfortunately not the actual band FUN, but still the College Ring-In is a fantastic time. Everyone left the event energized and excited about the future of handbell ringing. I can’t wait to do it again in January.
All the information about the event can be found on the Handbell Musicians of America’s (newly redesigned) website! Let us know in comments or on social media if you’ll be attending. I hope to see everyone there!