What to Expect as a Member of Kalamazoo Ringers

So you’d like to join Kalamazoo Ringers – we appreciate your interest!

Before you charge ahead to fill out our Audition Questionnaire, we’d like to give you an idea of what it’s like to be with us. It’s essential to know whether membership in our group is a commitment you can fulfill before you join us. So here’s a sketch of what we expect of ourselves and each other.

We seek to give our audiences (as well as ourselves), a wonderful musical experience.
Our mission is in the field of musical performance, so we constantly explore and perform music that will extend and amplify that experience for those who come to our concerts.

We thrive on challenge.
Our repertoire will often be at a higher level of difficulty than you’ve met in other places and with other groups. Many church-based handbell choirs play at AGEHR Level 2-3; our music usually spans Levels 3-5 (with occasional Level 6 works). You can look at it as climbing a much steeper and larger mountain than you may have attempted before. To be a KR member, then, you first need the skill to meet the challenges we accept for ourselves. Even more importantly, though, you must also choose to persevere through those challenges as the essence of the commitment you’ve made to KR.

We take personal responsibility for getting the work done.
In a handbell ensemble, each member has a unique assignment in each piece. Each of us is required to invest the time and energy required to learn our music. This involves attending rehearsals regularly. If that’s not enough to get the job done, we put in the extra effort and time needed to make that happen. “Getting the job done”, by the way, means more than just our regular schedule, because we also have special retreat days (just one or two per year!) and volunteer work that supports KR financially. Also, we can’t rehearse or perform unless we manage our equipment – and that means all of us, together, are the crew that schleps, sets up, breaks down, and reverse-schleps between home base and wherever we’re rehearsing or performing. Without our fulfilling these commitments, KR couldn’t be the group it is.

We grow together. Each of us experiences moments of frustration or self-doubt when we’re learning – or even performing! – our music. Our response is not to “duck and cover”, but to determinedly grow as musicians and as an ensemble so that we can not only make the music work, but express it as it should be expressed and present it as it should be presented. We’re prepared to learn (or invent!) new skills and approaches to playing our instrument(s) so that we can give even more to the musical world than we can now.

We are a team.
KR’s members work together to make the music happen. Sometimes this takes the form of moving from one assignment to another from piece to piece. Even more frequently, we’ll figure out ways to have less occupied ringers play notes for (near-)impossibly busy ones; playing the uppermost position (B67C78) often means you’ll have an interesting assortment of bells and chimes to manage! We do this because we are a team, and because it’s the way we create a whole handbell choir that’s much greater than the sum of its individual members.

We are a family.
Being part of KR is all about accountability to our mission. But just as much it’s about being accountable to and responsible for each other. We consider our current members as well as former members to be part of a family that has made music together for decades. And so we take care of each other, and watch out for each other.