Inducted into the Ring of Fame in 2012 were Doug Benton – Arizona, and Roy and Jennie Blomquist – Arizona
Douglas Benton, from Gold Canyon, Arizona, began his formal music education at age six with the study of piano. He began playing baritone horn in sixth grade. During Doug’s sophomore year in high school, the organist at his church was in a car accident and laid up in traction. The church asked Doug to play the “mighty Hammond” and, of course, he said, “absolutely!!!” He was paid $5 per week! That summer, he performed an organ piece at Arizona State University High School Music Camp. He also played baritone horn and sang in the Concert Choir. As a result, Doug was awarded the Outstanding Boy Full Scholarship to Music Camp the following year
Fast forward to 1973, when Doug was organist at Mount of Olives Lutheran Church in Phoenix. A friend at a church down the street called him and begged him to come to a youth handbell concert from a church in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. After the concert, Doug was invited to go to a concert at the National Handbell Festival at ASU the following week. Doug went to hear the Thurlstone Ringers from England perform – nine men ringing over 300 bells! Doug said “I have to be a part of whatever this is!”
Over the next few months, Doug raised the money and purchased a 2-octave set for the church and began with 8 youth who rang for the first time on Christmas Eve. With that, the MOO Ringers (short for Mt. Of Olives Lutheran) was born. In 1974, they went to their first festival, the Area XI Festival in Estes Park, CO. The following summer, they went to the National Festival in Logan, UT, traveling with a group from Tucson, The Bells of the Twisted Cross. On the way back, Doug said, “What if…” and they decided to combine forces and tour the country as a double choir. They raised money, produced a recording and left in June, 1977 on a 28-day, 24 performance tour from Arizona across the country to Massachusetts and back. The Guild’s motto: “Uniting People Through a Musical Art” definitely applied. Doug eventually built the church handbell program to 5 choirs ringing a 5-octave and a 3-octave set, plus 3-octaves of chimes and a full set of Orff Instruments.
In 1989, as a Malmark rep, Doug sold a 5-octave set of bells and 3-octaves of chimes to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. They asked Doug if he knew anyone who would be willing to develop a handbell program made up of Music Majors. It took Doug all of 32 seconds to say, “Yeah, ME!” So for the next 11 years, Doug developed the NAU Harter Memorial Handbell Ringers into a top-notch handbell program.
Doug has served the Guild as Arizona State Chair and set up clinics and festivals all over the state. As Chair of Area 11, Doug established a state organization in Colorado, was on the National Bylaws Committee and was able to change the Bylaws so states and Sub-Areas could legally establish state/sub-area organizations and their treasuries. Doug further served the Guild as its first Chair of Director Education, with committees focused on a new system of certification modeled after the American Guild of Organists and MENC, and a new event with a track for advanced ringers/groups, Handbell Spectacular. Doug was a frequent contributor to OVERTONES, having written articles on multiple bell techniques, conducting, rhythm, etc. He became famous as a bass bell expert.
He is a published composer/arranger of handbell, choral, organ, brass and orchestral music. Doug is currently the full-time Director of Music Ministries at Gold Canyon United Methodist Church in Gold Canyon, AZ, where he directs two handbell choirs, two vocal choirs, an orchestra, produces a Performing Arts Series, plays organ, and oversees music for the Praise Service and the Country Western Service. Doug says, “I am truly blessed to be here at this place at this time doing what I am doing! Life is very good, indeed!”
Roy and Jennie Blomquist
Roy and Jennie Blomquist of Scottsdale, Arizona, have both been involved with handbells for many years. They have become quite a “team”, supporting each other and working together. The nomination form stated, “other than their individual terms of office, it is hard to separate Roy’s work from Jennie’s, as they worked together on so many workshops and festivals over the years.”
In the late 1970’s, Kay Cook, Doug Benton and Roy decided that opportunities for handbell education were essentially non-existent in Arizona. They banded together and started offering handbell workshops. Handbell workshops were regularly held, as well as massed ringing events for elementary school choirs and beginning choirs.
Roy has served as the Arizona State Sub-Area chair as well as the Chair of Area 11. He served on the National Board when AGEHR was in the early stages of considering restructuring. He chaired a national committee formed to resolve numerous issues which came up during restructuring discussions. He also chaired a committee charged with reviewing all Area bylaws for conformance with revised standards.
Back home, Roy served as assistant and consultant to state chairs, continuing to teach various handbell classes. Serving on committees for state and area festivals, he gained more than 20 years of experience doing floor lay-outs for massed ringing events
Jennie started ringing handbells in 1983. After visiting her mother’s church in California and hearing handbells for the first time, she returned to her Arizona church and asked them to purchase a set. They did, and that was the beginning of her bell career.
Jennie assisted Roy with planning and implementing state festivals during his terms as State Chair, then she served two terms as Secretary/Treasurer and three terms as Chair for the Arizona State Sub-Area. Since the end of her terms, Jennie and Roy have planned two additional handbell festivals in Arizona.
Jennie and Roy attended their first National Directors’ Seminar in Virginia in 1989 and have attended many since then. Seminars became their family vacations.
They attended their first International Symposium in 1996 in Albuquerque, New Mexico where they played with the NAU Harter Handbell choir as fill-ins for two who couldn’t attend. Since then, they have attended International Symposia in Australia in 2006 and Japan in 2010.
Together, Roy and Jennie co-founded Campanillas del Sol, an auditioned community handbell ensemble in 2000. Campanillas is still performing and has played all over Arizona. In 2008, the group did a concert tour in Europe, and they plan to join a performance and education tour of Israel, led by Debbie Rice, in April 2013.
In addition to his full time job for IBM, Roy is Director of Music at Congregational Church of the Valley and organist for midweek services at a Christian Science Church in Scottsdale. Roy and Jennie recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary, a second marriage for both of them. Between them, they have 4 children and 12 grandchildren. Daughter, Kelli, has rung on Kevin McChesney’s “Dream Team” at his solo and ensemble event (SEE).
It has been said that, “Roy and Jennie love handbells! And, they have worked hard so others can learn to love them too!”