2019 Area 5 Board Elections

2019 Area 5 Board Elections

AreaVOTEThe voting period is closed. Results will be announced June 1, 2019

Every two years, the membership of Area 5 has the opportunity and obligation to choose their leaders. Our members have the responsibility to learn about the candidates and cast their votes in order to insure the continuing level of service and events that Area 5 offers.

Handbell Musicians of America introduced online voting for national board elections in 2014. To ensure each member only votes once, and to maintain the security of the voting process, only votes submitted through the online ballot will be accepted.


Click here for Voting Instructions. Online voting begins April 15 and runs through May 15, 2019. Results will be announced June 1, 2019.

Thoughtfully choosing good leaders is the future for Area 5. Please read all the information and cast your vote. Everyone’s voice is needed!

2019 Candidate Information

Please read carefully the biographies of each candidate and their answers to questions asked by the Board. This should provide some insight into how each candidate sees the work of Area 5 and what they hope to bring to their respective offices, if elected. Candidates are presented in alphabetical order, by office.

Connie Nicholson
Ann Wood

Joyce Armentrout
Mary Lou Fast

Dave Baker
Charles E. Thomas

Area 5 Chair-Elect

Connie Nicholson received her undergraduate degree in Physical Education and Health at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where she was also a member of the varsity women’s gymnastics team. This was followed with a Master’s degree in Sociology of Sport at the University of Illinois. She studied piano from age 5 through high school, organ in college and early 20’s, and more recently, pedal harp at Interlochen in Michigan. She has lived in Michigan since 1977 with her husband Bill, but has strong family ties to Kansas (lived there as a child) and summers in Lakeside Chautauqua, in Ohio. Her father’s athletic abilities and her mother’s exceptional piano and organ skills, has greatly influenced Connie’s interests and activities, such as solo ringing, which combines both athleticism and music. She has been playing handbells since 1977 with the Carillon Choir at the First United Methodist Church of Midland, MI, and has been directing children and youth bell choirs, and more recently adults, since 1992. She has expanded their church bell program, which now has 1 chime choir and 4 bell choirs. She has been solo ringing since 1993, along with belltree solos, performing twice at the National Seminar. She has also presented solo concerts for Area 5 Young Ringers and three opening concerts for Area 5 festivals. She has served as a clinician, numerous times, for both Nationals and Area 5, along with Area 5 workshops and the Director’s Seminar. She has two publications, a solo piece called “Rock A My Soul” and a 5 octave arrangement from the tune “Aberystwyth” called “The Cross” that uses biblical narration.

What special skills and/or experiences would you bring to the office of Chair-elect?
To keep a bell program with 50 ringers running smoothly, requires good listening, communication and organizational skills. Over the years I’ve worked with a variety of personalities, problems, demographic changes in the community, changing church programs that impacted the bell program, and budget issues, just to name a few. I have learned to be adaptable and voice what I feel is best for the handbell program. Luckily, my church has been strong in their support and appreciation for bells since 1977. I am versatile, as I teach children to adults, beginners to advanced ringers, special needs children and youth, ensembles ranging from solo to quartet, and belltrees. For the first 20 years, I exclusively taught chimes/bells to children and youth, having 3 choirs, made up of elementary, middle school and high school choirs. Basically every year, when working with this age group, is a new choir, as ringers quit bells due to school activities, change grades, graduate, etc. I’ve learned to be resourceful and flexible. Another strength I can bring to the board, is leadership skills. Having a strong and successful bell program has required me to be creative, responsible, positive, and motivational. Presently I am mentoring a director from another church, who is participating in one of my bell choirs. I am also involved with a women’s organization, P.E.O., in our community, having served as both president and secretary. And lastly, I would say, part of my success has been that I view teaching and directing bells from a ringer’s perspective. I view myself foremost as a ringer, having the opportunity to share with others my teaching knowledge, ringing skills, energy and enthusiasm. I am passionate about bells and love sharing the joy of ringing with others.

What are some challenges that you think Area 5 will face in the near future?
As our society ages, so have many of our ringers. I am the only member of the original 1977 Carillon Choir, who is still able to ring. Handbells had a huge surge of churches buying handbells in the 70’s-80’s, and we all needed to attend festivals and workshops so we could learn how to play our instrument. We need to be mindful of this, as encouraging younger ringers to participate and be involved with a variety of Area 5 activities, is key to keeping our organization vital and healthy. We need to listen, strengthen connections and be supportive of all ages, so that we can foster growth. We need to promote that spark of enthusiasm we all had as we were just getting started ringing. Over the years my church has made changes that has impacted the bell program, requiring me to be creative, and not be afraid to make changes and try new things. For instance, our community closed down a large number of schools, so I had to reorganize to an elementary chime choir, beginning, intermediate and advanced bell choirs, which are now intergenerational. I asked parents of the children I worked with to come and try bells. I had choirs that were 6 weeks, offering an opportunity for those who wanted a shorter commitment, wanted to learn to ring, or a review for those who hadn’t rung in a long time. My point, is that we all have challenges, and it’s important we aren’t stagnant. This includes not only our own bell choirs, but Area 5. We have to constantly work at keeping our organization strong and forward thinking. That being said, rising costs can be a difficult balance with offering opportunities that feeds a variety of skill levels and learning needs, both for ringers and directors. Awareness of what fits the needs of our organization, at an affordable price, will be a continuous challenge.

What do you hope to see Area 5 accomplish in the near future?
It’s important that we stay relevant and in the forefront, for social media, texting and twitter have become powerful tools in helping us to stay connected. I find I’m more involved with my friends or an organization when I see and share posts, tweets, texts and photos. We need to expand this avenue allowing us to enhance the relationships we have with Area 5. We need to continue to look forward, pave new ways, mentor our youth, share our traditions, and encourage new generations of ringers to participate with Handbell Musicians of America. I believe that active bell choirs can do more to promote Area 5, by being invitational and reaching out, even to one local bell choir, asking and encouraging them to come to an Area 5 event. If they only have a few ringers, join forces and have them ring with your choir. I hope that we listen and fulfill ringer’s needs, whether it is needing guidance, ringing skills, questions, etc., and that we can continue to be a resource for directors and ringers. I am a big believer in festivals, so I hope to see more choirs attending festivals, as they are a wonderful way to further personalize and develop friendships within the bell world, and also promote fellowships and unity in a choir, while still learning and working on skills and musicality. Plus, it’s so exciting to work and learn under a different director, and one who is often a composer of music in our library. And finally, I hope we have fun. After 41 years of bell festivals, I have a varied number of stories that have shaped my life. Stories that make me laugh, reflect, inspires my soul and speaks to my heart. My hope is that Area 5 events, will continue to bring fun and life building experiences, that enrich our lives and make us better people.

Ann Wood has served as Director of Music at First Presbyterian Church in Escanaba, Michigan, where she conducts vocal and handbell choirs, since 1989. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in Speech/Theatre and from Concordia University Wisconsin with a Master of Church Music/Choral Conducting/Handbell degree. Ann currently serves the Handbell Musicians of America as Area 5 Secretary and is accredited to teach Level 1 Music Theory and Conducting Handbell Certification classes at the national level. She maintains a large private music studio in the Escanaba area, teaching music theory, piano, voice, and Suzuki and traditional strings. In addition to her other endeavors, she recently retired from Bay de Noc Community College where she taught English, communications, and music classes as an adjunct faculty member for thirty-four years. She has two handbell compositions in print. Ann lives in Escanaba with her husband Brian, who shares her love of music, and has three grown children, one of whom is a professional classical singer.

What special skills and/or experiences would you bring to the office of Chair-elect?
I’ve served on the board for several years as Michigan State Chair and Secretary, so I’ve seen the way Area 5 operates. I believe I have the leadership skills it will take to continue the excellent work of Area 5, and I have made a lot of connections across the Area with members who also have talents to offer.

What are some challenges that you think Area 5 will face in the near future?
I think we have been struggling a bit in the past few years to find an effective way to organize our fall education events. I hope to continue working with the board to deliver excellent outreach to our membership through education and mentoring.

What do you hope to see Area 5 accomplish in the near future?
I’m hoping that bringing National’s Certification program to Area events will allow more members to take advantage of the opportunity to attain certification. I also hope we can continue to find ways to reach out to youth, as we did last year at the Mackinac Island School and as the board plans to do by providing youth events area-wide in 2020. In addition, I’d like to see the directors’ retreat we are planning for this spring become a biennial event, alternating years with youth events.

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Area 5 Secretary

My name is Joyce Armentrout and I am from Charleston, WV. I was first introduced to handbells at a small Presbyterian church I attended in the mid-1980s and I have been ringing ever since. I have played in a variety of different church handbell groups as well as in an auditioned community choir. These experiences combined to inspire me to actively strive to gain more knowledge and improve my musicianship and, eventually, transformed handbell ringing from a fun activity I do at church into a full-fledged passion. Over the years I have dabbled in solo and duet ringing and have recently gone beyond my comfort zone to attempt to learn a little about directing while working with a small handbell ensemble at the church where I first learned to play. All in all, handbells have been a big part of my life for most of my adult years and I am very excited about the possibility of being given an opportunity to serve in the organization that promotes and supports handbell ringing in our region.

In my professional life, I work as a Developmental Specialist with WV Birth to Three, our state’s early intervention program, which provides services to infants and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities. I returned to graduate school in 2014 and I am now nearing the completion of a Master’s in Special Education with dual certifications in teaching blind/visually impaired and deaf/hard of hearing students

What special skills and/or experiences would you bring to the office of Secretary?
I am organized, detail oriented, and have strong written communication skills. I also bringing leadership experience derived from serving on the Session at my previous church, the Presbytery of WV’s Mission Committee (including one year as chair), and Presbytery Council. When I take a job as an officer, committee member, etc., for any organization, I take that responsibility very seriously and strive to give it my best effort.

What are some challenges you think Area 5 will face in the near future?
I think that one of the challenges for Area 5 is the planning of events that have something to offer all levels of ringers, from beginning to advanced. We need to build on previous successes like the offering of a bronze track for advanced ringers, and perhaps add new options such as an intensive clinic for aspiring solo ringers or more in-depth skills classes for those desiring to go beyond the basics in their ringing.

Another challenge for Area 5 is in providing support to ensembles with fewer ringers. Many churches have bells going unused because they do not have enough ringers for a full choir and perhaps are not aware of the large and growing body of resources available for smaller groups of ringers. I would like to see Area 5 develop a program for teaching churches how to use smaller numbers of ringers creatively and effectively to enhance their worship and perhaps supports for helping to get smaller community ensembles off the ground.

What do you hope to see Area 5 accomplish in the near future?
I would like to see Area 5 identify and reach out to a greater number of ringers by finding ways to serve and support those who are typically not able to attend the large, centralized events or even the regional workshops. I believe there is already some experimentation happening with the idea of traveling workshops, and I think this is a great idea. I would like to see our organization continue to explore this and other similarly creative ideas for serving ringers in our area that we may otherwise be missing.

Although Mary Lou Fast grew up in Wyoming, she can now say she has lived in Ohio longer. She has been married for forty-nine years, has two daughters and five grandchildren. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Colorado State College, minoring in music. She also received her Master of Arts degree from Bowling Green State University with an emphasis in reading. She retired from teaching elementary education after twenty-nine years. She now supervises student teachers at the University of Toledo. She has been directing handbells for twenty years, played the piano since seventh grade and recently arranged two handbell arrangements which were accepted for publishing. For four years she was the Membership Chair for Area 5.

What special skills and/or experiences would you bring to the office of Secretary?
During college Mary Lou worked as a clerk typist for the Wyoming State Highway Department, which gave her valuable experience in typing reports and letters. As a supervisor of student teachers, she has been responsible for writing reports based on each student’s accomplishments throughout the semester. As the director of a handbell choir she has communicated with her ringers and church personnel on a regular basis. As Membership Chair she was responsible for typing her bi-annual reports and to access/download membership data into Dropbox on a monthly basis. She also wrote letters of invitation to send to each vendor for the various Area 5 festivals and communicated with the vendors that responded. Each of these experiences have provided her the necessary skills to become the secretary for Area 5.

Question 2: What are some challenges that you think Area 5 will face in the near future?
There are three challenges that Area 5 has been dealing with since Mary Lou was a part of Area 5’s Board, which will continue to be a challenge. The first challenge will be to provide outstanding opportunities for ringers and directors to come together to experience excellent mass ringing and educational workshops. One of the goals for Handbell Musicians of America is to bring people of every skill level together to reach their full potential through the ringing of handbells. The second challenge will be to provide various venues for our young people to experience handbells in a fun and challenging manner, which hopefully will entice them to be a part of our community! If we are able to achieve these two challenges, then we will see the third challenge become a reality. We need to retain and grow our membership.

What do you hope to see Area 5 accomplish in the near future?
The answer to this question is to draw ringers and directors to Area 5’s events by bringing in outstanding and well recognized directors and teachers to make our events some of the best in the nation.

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Area 5 Treasurer

Dave Baker grew up in Indianapolis and has had a passion for music ever since the first time he picked up a trumpet at age nine. He is a classically trained trumpet player and plays guitar and keyboards. Dave’s past musical experience includes serving as a contemporary worship leader and choir director. He is a member of the Cross of Grace Lutheran Church Alleluia Ringers handbell choir and a member of the church praise band where he plays guitar and piano. Dave is also active in community music ensembles. Dave attended Indiana University and has a bachelor’s degree in business with a major in accounting. Dave is an IT Architect at Eli Lilly and Company.

What special skills and/or experiences would you bring to the office of Treasurer?
In addition to being a handbell musician, I have worked as an Information Technology professional since 1983. I volunteered to join the Area 5 Board to finish Kyle Webber’s term as Treasurer in May of 2016 when Kyle moved his family to Florida. Prior to joining the board, I was a volunteer worker at the 2015 festivals at Mackinac Island, Michigan and French Lick, Indiana and at the 2016 festival in Dayton, Ohio.

Registration for our workshops and festivals in Area 5 are performed using online registration systems. I have experience with these online registration platforms and set up the registration sites for the 2016-2018 fall workshops and the 2017-2019 festivals. I have prior experience as a not-for-profit treasurer and served as the treasurer for the Buck Creek Township Fire Department and for the Grace Community Fellowship Church. I have spent most of my professional career at Eli Lilly and Company and Microsoft Corporation. I have experience in website development, project management, business development, personnel management, business strategy consulting and marketing. I bring over 30 years of professional business experience to the Area 5 Board.

What are some challenges that you think Area 5 will face in the near future?
We, like many organizations like us, struggle to keep our membership growing. I would like to see us explore different ways to make handbell music more visible to the public and at the same time find new ways to meet the needs of our current members. All organizations struggle with being relevant to their members in new and innovative ways. This will need to be an additional priority for us moving forward.

What do you hope to see Area 5 accomplish in the near future?
I believe Area 5 does a great job organizing events and supporting our current membership base. I feel we are offering some wonderful events and 2019 will be a great year too. I think one of our greatest challenges is reaching youth. I would like to see us explore innovative and creative ways to reach young ringers. I believe developing a passion for our art form in young people is important to our continued success as an organization.

Charlie Thomas is a lifelong resident of WV, having graduating with a B.S. in Business Administration from West Virginia University.

He is married to his bell ringer wife, Donna, with two grown children. (one a bell ringer).

Charlie’s professional career has been mostly in the credit union industry, having been employed as CEO / Manager of more than one credit union. He is currently a Project Manager for the WV Central FCU. He has also served as a volunteer board member of various cooperative institutions.

His musical pursuits in recent years have mostly revolved around handbell choirs, but he has also participated in higher level vocal and other instrumental ensembles. He states that his musical tastes and abilities have grown as a result of his widely varied musical experience. His first handbell ringing experience was in 1975. He has experience as an amateur, but enthusiastic conductor, and rings currently with the Mid-Ohio Valley Ringers.

What special skills and/or experiences would you bring to the office of Treasurer?
Charlie states that his relevant skill set for the Area 5 Treasurer position includes:

  • broad financial management skills and knowledge,
  • abilities in human resource management, and personal relationship development and maintenance,
  • experience and abilities in simple and effective presentation of financial information geared to specific audiences,
  • experience in varied governance situations, including having training in current governance best practices in board situations.

What are some challenges that you think Area 5 will face in the near future?
Charlie believes that Area 5’s challenges going forward will be similar to the current challenges:

  • Maintaining and growing membership,
  • Planning and organizing events to support to mission of advancing the musical art of handbell ringing,
  • Developing committed leadership for the future.

What do you hope to see Area 5 accomplish in the near future?
For the near future, Charlie would like to see the Area:

  • Coordinate successful events, building interest and excitement for successive events,
  • Help our members to find ways to bring our art form to a more full reality of being musically respected.

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