Ring of Fame Previous Recipients

The Ring of Fame has had many outstanding honorees over the years since the award’s inception in 2006. All the honorees have different yet similar stories.  Their enthusiasm and love for the instrument led many of them to compose music for equally enthusiastic ringers.  They gave of their time to lead various groups and to help organize events for ringers in their hometown, their state and often all of Area 11.  They raised money and toured with young ringers; in some cases even inventing instruments to augment the sound of bells on these trips. Reading about those honored with the Ring of Fame award may inspire you or give you the courage to get involved with more than just your own local group.  Volunteers for various tasks are always needed.

2006 Inductees:  Phyllis Anschicks – Colorado (Posthumously), Ed Duncan – Utah, John Faris – Arizona, Everett Hilty, Colorado.

2008 Inductees: Gail Downey – New Mexico, Tom Waldron – Utah.

2010 Inductee: Dr. William Wood – New Mexico.

2012 Inductees: Doug Benton – Arizona, Roy and Jennie Blomquist – Arizona

2014 Inductees: Marcy Hontz – Arizona and Roxanne Hammond – Colorado

2016 Inductee: There were no inductees this year

2018 Inductee: George Cannon – Wyoming

2022 Inductee: Kay Cook – Arizona

2024 Inductee: Claudette Rothwell – Utah

Read about each of the previous inductees below, beginning with the most recent.

Claudette Rothwell

Inducted into the Ring of Fame in 2024 was Claudette Rothwell – Utah.

Music has been a part of Claudette’s life since she was a young child.  She began formal instruction on the piano when she was 7 years old and continued lessons through college.  Claudette graduated Magna Cum Laude from University of Northern Colorado with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education K-12.  While in college she served as president of the music fraternity Delta Omicron.  After graduation, she married Bill, the love of her life, and became a military spouse.  For 23 years they lived and traveled in many foreign countries and throughout the United States.  While stationed in England, Claudette enjoyed teaching piano privately to most of the American children from the military families living there.  

Her first exposure to a handbell choir was at the age of 30 in Ohio at a local church.  She immediately fell in love with the beautiful sound of the bells!  Although her time in Ohio was short, Rena Leatherman, the director of the church handbell choir invited her to ring, and gave her a crash course in the finer art of playing the instrument.  Claudette’s passion for handbells continues to this day!  She has enjoyed ringing in church and community choirs, in ensembles, and as a soloist.  As a director, she has always been grateful for the privilege of directing bell choirs for all ages, regardless of their musical knowledge.  

Volunteering has played a big role in Claudette’s life.  She loved being involved in the lives of her three boys, and frequently volunteered in various capacities in their schools and their activities outside of school.  As a military spouse, she had leadership positions in the Officer’s Wives Club, working to enhance life in the military.  Her volunteer efforts at her church led to an opportunity to work fulltime on the church staff as the Director of Children’s and Adult ministries, a position she held for 25 years.  In 1997 she started the bell choir ministry at Community United Methodist Church in Ogden, Utah and served as Director of Bell Choir Ministry, a position she still holds.  Through the years she has introduced handbells and handchimes to hundreds of children, youth and adults.  Many of her ringers started out as 1st graders and continued ringing with her through high school.  Today, as adults, several are still involved in handbell choirs around the country.  She has travelled with her youth choirs to the Area 11 Young Ringers Camps, where she facilitated classes, conducted massed ringing and served as camp director.      

Claudette has been an active member of Handbell Musicians of America for many years, serving in leadership positions since 2002 at both the state and Area level.  While serving as the Area 11 Chair-Elect and Chair, Claudette had the opportunity to witness and participate in the inner workings of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers (AGEHR).  She remembers a proud moment when at one of the National Board Meetings after much discussion it was decided that the Guild would begin doing business as “Handbell Musicians of America”, a name that would help identify us as musicians to be respected and taken seriously in the musical world.        

As the Area 11 Event Planner, Claudette helped plan Area 11 Festivals for all five Area 11 states.  In 2007 she was instrumental in implementing the first Area 11 Young Ringers Camp, which has continued in the odd-numbered years.  Many have heard Claudette say that her favorite part of summer vacation was taking kids to Young Ringers Camp!  She feels very blessed to have had so many opportunities over the years to serve and be involved in the handbell world, and especially to be part of Area 11.        

Kay Cook

Inducted into the Ring of Fame in 2022 was Kay Cook – Arizona.

For 27 years, Kay Cook has been changing the lives of youth and adults through the rhythmic music of handbells. She is described as a visionary, utilizing her innovative style and unique training techniques to make a difference through the art of handbell ringing. She has proven that new levels of excellence in performance are not only possible, but are thrilling audiences all over the world. As a result of her ingenious training techniques, Desert Bells is known for its precisely synchronized ringing, creative interpretation of compositions, dexterous bell styles, and delightful entertainment and showmanship on stage. Ms. Cook and her Desert Bells’ choirs are sought after to perform on many prestigious stages throughout Arizona, the United States, and the world.

Ms. Cook was educated at Eastern Illinois University and Arizona State University. She studies privately with Dr. William A. Payn, Chairman of the Department of Music at Bucknell University and renowned handbell composer. Desert Bells had the honor of premiering one of Dr. Payn’s recent compositions, “Heart Melodies” with the renowned ASU Chamber Orchestra.

As a clinician, Ms. Cook has instructed handbell directors, composers, and ringers from the United States and Europe through Handbell Exploration™ International. These handbell conferences attract professionals and amateurs from around the world who are interested in furthering their knowledge and experience of the art of handbell ringing. Ms. Cook has also, in past years, conducted workshops at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. Ms. Cook conducted a Masters Class for Handbell Directors at Concordia College, Mequon, Wisconsin during their summer session in 1999 and 2000. Kay has directed festivals and workshops for the The American Guild of English Handbell ringers over the past 25 years.

She has accepted countless invitations as guest conductor for festivals, concerts, symposiums, conventions, and seminars throughout the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Scotland, Germany, France, Belgium, Hungary, Austria, Mexico, Japan, and Australia.

Since 1977, many churches throughout the Valley of the Sun have benefited from Ms. Cook’s work with their handbell choirs, including: First Christian, Camelback Bible, Chaparral Christian, Grace Community, Scottsdale United Church of Christ, St. Barnabas on the Desert, North Phoenix Baptist, and Mountain View Presbyterian.

Inducted into the Ring of Fame in 2018 was George Cannon – Wyoming.

George Cannon
October 14, 1934-July 25, 2008
The Ring of Fame was started by theArea XI 2002-2004 Board and they established the Ring of Fame to honor those who have madeoutstanding contributions to the art of Handbell/ Handchime ringing. It is intended to recognize and honor commitment to handbells based on exceptional service to Handbell Musicians of America, Area XI, the Sub area, and/or to Handbell/Handchime ringing in general.  The chair elect forms a committee to review nominations and then the board approves their recommendations. This occurs on the even years with the festival, so think about who you want to  nominate next time!
This year, the area is pleased to honor George Cannon with the Ring of Fame Award for 2018.   George contributed greatly to the handbell world in Wyoming, where he lived, as well as to Area 11 and the National events.  While George loved music and played the piano and organ he had never heard handbells until he lived in Salt Lake City. Apparently after hearing a handbell group, he became fascinated with them, and when he moved back to Casper, he was determined to bring handbells with him. He got donations, including from his family to buy a set, and started the handbell choir at First United Methodist Church, the Koinonia Handbell Ringers. He was director from 1974-1998, and retired from this prgram as Handbell Director Extraordinaire in May 1998.  During his time as director, more than 170 ringers rang with him.  That group is still in existence today, led by one of his initial ringers, Dana Deuel, and is the group I rang with at the spring ring. I’m sure he’d be pleased to know they continued on.
George held numerous offices in the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers, now Handbell Musicians of America and served as both state chair for Wyoming for many years and as Area chair for Area 11 from 1988-1990.  He looked for ways to spread bells, including setting up concerts where the bells played with the Casper Symphony orchestra, the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra and Powder River Symphony Orchestra and using handbells with the choir regularly.  He also had two pieces commissioned for the Koinonia ringers:  Christ is Born,later published as While by my Sheep, arranged by Cynthia Dobrinski and O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing, arranged by Doug Benton for handbells and organ.  He was friends with many of the composers and directors in the handbell world and often visited with them. Claranne told me stories of Cynthia Dobrinski and many others staying with them over the years.
One thing I heard from everyone was that George was instrumental in promoting bells in Wyoming.  He helped many handbell choirs get started, and perhaps even more importantly he mentored several new directors.  He personally organized and led two area festivals in Casper in 1990 and 2000.  I did not think I knew him but I was at the festival in 2000 in Casper and when I saw his picture, I recognized him.  I can attest that that festival was a great time and I know there are others in this room that agree with me.  He started the Wyoming Spring Rings and organized many of these festivals over the years.  He directed some massed choir settings and presented workshops at the state and area level. As I talked to people in Wyoming, everyone described him as “delightful” and fun, while at the same time setting high expectations.  He was very focused on details, and could be exacting. However, universally this was viewed as a good thing, making him successful in whatever he tried.  His passion was handbells and he was a force to be reckoned with in the handbell world!
George was married to Claranne Cannon for almost 42 years and had 2 children, Beth and Dean  Claranne described him as the social butterfly of the family!  He valued family and friends, which I heard universally as I talked with people, and many people I spoke to told me he enjoyed numerous activities including hiking, skiing, and rafting as well as traveling. In short George made huge contributions to the lives of those who knew him, the handbell world in Wyoming and to all of us in the larger handbell world, and we are delighted to be able to recognize that contribution with this award.

There were no Ring of Fame recipients in 2016

Inducted into the Ring of Fame in 2014 were Marcy Hontz – Arizona, and Roxanne Hammond – Colorado 

Area 11, Handbell Musicians of America, is proud to name Marcy Hontz of Scottsdale, Arizona, and the late Roxanne Hammond of Colorado Springs, Colorado, as its newest members of the Area 11 Ring of Fame.  The Ring of Fame recognizes significant contributions of members over a lifetime of service to the art of handbell ringing and will honor the two awardees at a banquet on June 21 in Loveland, Colorado, as part of the organization’s bi-annual festival.

MarcArea 11 Marcy Hontzy Hontz has been a long-time supporter of Guild activities in both her home state of Arizona and throughout Area 11.  Marcy is the quiet worker in the background, making sure every detail was attended to for state, local, and area level events.   She volunteered in her church, directing both adult and youth handbell choirs and holding handbell workshops and reading sessions.   Marcy also encouraged her choirs to ring in local and area festivals.  Marcy was key in creating a handbell webpage for Arizona and, later, for Area 11.  Under her supervision, the webpage grew to a very usable resource for the Area, and the newsletter increased in readership.  After many years in the role of webmaster and newsletter editor for Area 11, Marcy recently retired, but can still be found in many roles in her local church and in Arizona state events.

Area 11 Roxanne HammondFor thirty years, Roxanne Hammond lived her life tirelessly in proclamation of the fellowship that handbell ringing brings by uniting people through the musical art.   Roxanne served as chair of Area XI, American Guild of English Handbell Ringers (later Handbell Musicians of America) from 1994 to 1996 and served as chairperson for the annual Southern Colorado Handbell Festival from approximately 1985 to 1991, a highly-successful festival that continues to this day with over 250 ringers, brass, and an audience of about 1200 people.

Roxanne’s passion was handbell ringing.  She taught classes at many festivals; she organized ringing opportunities for the community at large; her choirs would ring in churches that didn’t have handbells, with the expressed purpose of energizing the congregations to get their own handbells; she encouraged her ringers to become directors themselves and to form their own choirs.  And she insured that most of her choirs participated in local, state, area and national events.  She was a life-long supporter of AGEHR. This honor will be awarded posthumously.

Inducted into the Ring of Fame in 2012 were Doug Benton – Arizona,  
and Roy and Jennie Blomquist – Arizona

Doug Benton – 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 – Arizona

Picture of Roy and Jennie

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!

Inducted into the Ring of Fame in  2010  was Dr. William Wood – New Mexico

Dr. William Wood – New Mexico

Picture of Bill Wood

“His passion for handbells is contagious and he constantly encourages people to be ringers. He does whatever he can to support bell-ringing. And he is a huge supporter of AGEHR!”  These words describe Dr. William Wood who has been active in the handbell world for over 30 years.

At Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, Dr. Wood organized and directed a handbell choir for approximately twenty years. His groups appeared in School of Music General Recitals each semester and played for occasional worship services and spring handbell concerts at First United Methodist Church in Portales. In 1993 he organized the Eastern New Mexico Fall Handbell Festival and in November 2009 held the 17th Festival. In 1999 he retired from Eastern New Mexico University.

Bill Wood has been active in AGEHR and Area XI leadership. From 1989-1993 he served two 2-year terms as Area XI Secretary/Treasurer. He served as the Area XI representative to the AGEHR National Board from 2000-2003. He served on the board when the National Board adopted the Carver Governance system, and was a member of the Nomination Committee for the first set of board members under the new governance system. In February 2000, he was one of four board members who wrote the AGEHR Mission Statement: “The American Guild of English Handbell Ringers is dedicated to advancing the musical art of handbell/handchime ringing through education, community, and communication.”

Bill has six published handbell arrangements one of which is “All American Hometown Band”, one of AGEHR’s most popular pieces. He has also written handbell-related articles for The New Mexico Musician and Overtones, the official AGEHR publication.

He has presented numerous workshops at Area XI and AGEHR events and at the New Mexico Music Educator Association All-State Conference. Being a retired music educator, he enjoys teaching various classes at festivals – especially change-ringing.

He has been a long-time organist at First United Methodist Church in Portales where he also teaches a Sunday School class. He also finds time to be an active member of Kiwanis International.

Inducted into the Ring of Fame in 2008 were Gail Downey – New Mexico and Tom Waldron – Utah

Gail Downey – New Mexico

Picture of Gail Downey

Gail Downey’s introduction to handbells was similar to many other directors and ringers – it was by accident. It was 1978 when, during an interview for the position as choir director at Kirtland Air Force Base Chapel, Albuquerque, NM, the chaplain said, “By the way, I found two boxes of English handbells in a closet. Do you think you could do something with them?” Without batting an eye she answered, “Of course”, hoping that the expression on her face did not disclose the question running through her mind – “What on earth are English handbells and what does one do with them?” She was accepted for the position and several months later the chaplain produced 2 octaves of handbells. Forging bravely ahead, the Chapel Handbell Choir was formed with seven members who knew just as much as Gail did about the bells. They struggled along for a few months before Gail received what she refers to as a “life saving” phone call from a local member of AGEHR. This caller introduced Gail to the Guild as a source of handbell knowledge and encouraged her to attend the Area XI festival which would be held in Albuquerque in a few months.

The little band of intrepid ringers voted to attend the festival. She still remembers her amazement when Doug Benton’s group processed as they rang their solo and how everyone held their breath as John Payn’s boys rollicked their way through “Bumble Boogie”.  Another outstanding memory was hearing the Coppers division perform Phyllis Anchicks’ composition, “Mountain Grandeur”, a piece that would re-enter her life 26 years later. However, what impressed her most was the friendly attitude, immediate acceptance and total support everyone expressed toward her.

Gail remained at the Air Force Chapel for 8 years. The handbell program grew to include a children’s handbell choir, the original Chapel Choir and an outreach group who traveled throughout the central New Mexico area performing in a variety of venues. The two octave set of bells quickly grew to five octaves.

It has been thirty years since Gail first picked up a handbell and experimented with how to make it ring. During those years, handbells, AGEHR in general and Area XI in particular have occupied a major portion of her life. She served on the Area XI Board from 1988 until 2004 in various capacities – New Mexico State Chair, Area Chair Elect, Area Chair, CHIME Chair, and Historian. She also held the position of New Mexico CHIME Chair several times. She served on the AGEHR National Board when they began the journey to a new form of governance and was then elected to a three year term on the National Board of Directors, as a Director at Large, when the new governance was in place.

From 1989 through 2000, Gail directed the handbell teams at Manzano High School in Albuquerque, NM. It started when she was asked to help the marching band ring handbells during their marching show in the fall of ’99. Never one to turn down a handbell opportunity, she jumped at the chance. When marching season was over, the students didn’t want to stop ringing so the Manzano Royal Bronze was born. There were so many students interested in ringing that a second group was also formed. Gail was now directing 4 handbell choirs at two different churches and the 2 new groups at the high school. It wasn’t long before the teachers at the high school began asking if they could ring. Of course this led to the formation of a faculty group. In addition to ringing for assemblies and attending local festival conferences, the students of the Royal Bronze spent the entire school year raising funds to finance their summer concert tours. The tours were two or three weeks long and always included an Area or National festival. In their final year they participated in the Area XI festival in Casper. Then they traveled across the country, presenting concerts along the way, to attend the National Conference in Buffalo, NY. There they were honored to perform the opening concert. The handbell program at Manzano High School was awarded first place in the prestigious New Mexico Quality in Education Award for outstanding educational innovations.

In 2000, Gail founded Enchantment ~ Albuquerque Handbell Ensemble, an auditioned community group devoted to sharing the art of handbell ringing by presenting concerts and school assemblies throughout central New Mexico.

Gail’s most recent adventure in the handbell world is in the field of publishing handbell music. Together with business partner, Leila Norris, they have created “From the Top” Music, a company which is stretching the parameters of traditional handbell publications.

Tom Waldron – Utah

Picture of Tom Waldron

Tom Waldron is the founding director of the Bells on Temple Square. In 2003, Tom was asked by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to direct the purchasing of handbells and organize a handbell choir. Through a donation, a 7 octave set of handbells plus a 6 1/2 octave set of handbells with two 6 octaves of hand chimes were purchased. The Bells on Temple Square perform twice annually in concert and often on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Sunday Broadcast. The Tabernacle Choir has given him the title of Bell Master for his work in teaching the singers of the choir to ring handbells for use in their concert tour programs and in some broadcasts.

In 1982, while teaching at Brighton H.S. Tom became the first public high school teacher in the state to establish a handbell choir where the students could receive credit for their membership in the group. He later moved to Jordan High School and started another handbell choir. His bell choirs at Brighton H.S. and Jordan H.S. performed for countless organizations and activities throughout the State of Utah. In 1988, he took his bells to the Western Music Educator’s Conference to assist as he presented two sessions on the advantages of English handbells in the music curriculum and the advantages provided by AGEHR.

His high school bell choir was invited to perform two times for the Utah Music Educators Association. His bell choir participated in the Portland, Oregon National AGEHR conference, the Area XI Conference in Durango, Colorado, and in Casper, Wyoming. In 1998 his High School handbell choir was featured in a Friday Evening Concert by the Temple Square Performance series.

Tom has taught numerous classes for the Utah State AGEHR during winter seminars and clinics. He directed the Utah State Mass Ring as a guest conductor twice in 1997 and 2006. Numerous high school music directors observed the successes at his high schools and Tom helped them get started by mentoring and giving workshops to them individually.

Tom served as the Utah chairman of AGEHR for two successive two-year terms. During this time he helped the Area XI board establish the area bylaws. He organized four statewide ringing conferences for bell choirs in the State of Utah and surrounding areas. He also served on the Area XI Chimes Committee.

Tom taught music in the public schools in Utah for 30 years. In 2002 he was presented with the Utah State Outstanding Music Educator Award by the Utah Music Educators Association. His choirs received numerous awards and superior ratings. Because of his outstanding work in the choral area, he has been the invited guest director of many Honor Choirs and festivals throughout the state.

Tom sang with the Tabernacle Choir for 20 years and was a featured soloist on several occasions.

He has composed handbell music for the Bells on Temple Square and has some of his compositions in print.

In 2003, Tom was presented with the Outstanding Service to the Art of Handbell Ringing Award by the Utah AGEHR.

Inducted into the Ring of Fame in 2006 were Phyllis AnschicksColorado, Ed Duncan – Utah,
John Faris – Arizona and Everett Hilty – Colorado.

Phyllis Anschicks – Colorado (honored posthumously)


Phyllis Anschicks became a member of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers  in the early 1960’s. She found that there was little handbell music written, so she began composing her own. As a professional musician, experienced with church music programs, she found that composing handbell music was her “niche”.

One pleasure that Phyllis found in her association with handbell choirs was the closeness and cooperation that developed in a group. Children could play next to a senior and get along perfectly. After years of working as a church musician, Phyllis left her church post to start two new community groups and continue working with Gal-axies , an established Women’s Choir. Phyllis served as Area 11 Chair, and was Festival Chair for the 1983 Area XI Festival held at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Her composition, “Mountain Grandeur,” a part of a work entitled “LEGACY” (A Tone Poem for Handbells) commissioned by the Fort Collins, Co. Centennial-Bicentennial Council for the Centennial-Bicentennial English Handbell Festival November 4, 1976 is a favorite of handbell choirs in  Area XI. To honor Phyllis’ contributions, the Area XI 2002-2004 Board established the “Phyllis Anschicks Memorial Composition Fund.” All proceeds from the sale of this composition are donated to the Fund. A portion of the Fund supported a commission in 2006.

Ed Duncan – Utah


Although now retired, Ed Duncan is the founding director of the Wesley Bell Ringers of Christ United Methodist Church in Salt Lake City, UT. He began some 35 years ago with a 2-octave set of Schulmerich handbells for his eight high school ringers. The 25 bells were purchased through the sale of hoagie sandwiches.

As more and more kids came to see what this handbell thing was, Ed added more and more bells. The Wesley Bell Ringers now probably have the single largest collection of handbells in the country, including the very first set of Malmark 6th octave bells. Their “handbell orchestra” includes a six octave set of handbells, a four octave set of handbells, a four octave set of handchimes, two octaves of Whitechapel Cup Bells, a two octave set of Schulmerich Silver Melody Bells, and a two octave carillon. It also includes orchestral chimes, cymbals, metallophone, steel drum and an assortment of rhythm instruments.  Ed invented the Boom-A-Gong, a xylophone looking instrument with metal bars and resonators tuned to the American handbell formants (fundamental and 12th) that covered the range from C2-B2. Ed has been innovative in designing tables and removable music stands for his choirs as well as the stands for the various instruments in the “orchestra”. He utilizes the different sounds of the various instruments, as well as the instrumental, vocal, and dance talents of his ringers to enhance the music his groups perform. Since there really is no music for this unique size of instrument, Ed created his own arrangements of classical music (such as Bach’s 2nd Brandenburg Concerto), hymn tunes, etc.

The Wesley Bell Ringers, usually numbering up to 30+, toured nationally – rotating the northern third of the country one year, with the central third and then the southern third in succeeding years. This allowed the kids to see and experience all the contiguous states in 3 years. The Wesley Bell Ringers have also toured through Alaska, Hawaii, and all provinces of Canada and Mexico. Through the years, Ed has involved approximately 400 youth in the Wesley Bell Ringers. He has never turned away a youth that wanted to be in his bell choir. When they didn’t have enough bells, they just bought more. Billed as “Salt Lake City’s ‘Other Choir'”, the Wesley Bell Ringers have created more visibility for handbells nationally and allowed more people to experience handbells as an instrument than any other handbell choir.

Today, the Wesley Bell Ringers continue to maintain the tradition of touring that Ed started so many years ago.  One interesting tidbit about Ed is that he loves to do needlepoint. He designs his own creations and has taught the youth how to do needlepoint on the long bus rides while on tour.

Ed Duncan served the AGEHR  as Area XI’s first Area Chair in 1971, after the re-alignment of areas, expanding from 9 areas to 11 areas.

One more thing….the Wesley Bell Ringers continue to fund their activities through the sale of hoagie sandwiches and rummage sales.

 Picture of John Faris

John C. Faris holds a BME degree from Oklahoma Baptist University and a MAE (Music) degree from Arizona State University. He has experience as an elementary school, high school and college music teacher. His specialty fields have included band, choral and handbells. For 19 years he conducted “Las Campanas de Agua Fria,” along with 3 other handbell choirs at Agua Fria Union High School in Avondale, Arizona. Upon leaving high school teaching he accepted the position of handbell director at Phoenix College where he conducted “Bell Canto” for 18 years. Upon experiencing some health problems, he took a few years off from the college and has now returned as the conductor of the Phoenix College Concert Band. (The college handbell choir is still flourishing under new leadership.) He has also served as choral conductor and handbell director at several churches in the Phoenix area. He also conducted a community choral group in the west valley area of Phoenix for 18 years.  He also served as conductorof the city of Glendale Summer Band for many years.

Aside from his teaching responsibilities, his past professional association positions include: the chairmanship of the Committee for Handbells in Formal Education (now CHIME) of AGEHR; Arizona chairman of AGEHR; 2 terms as president of the Arizona Music Educators Association; and president of the Arizona Band and Orchestra Directors Association. He recently retired as the executive director of the Arizona Music Educators Association (MENC) a position which he held for 12 years. For the past 4 years he served on the music committee for the National Association of High Schools.

In 1972 he was named the Arizona Music Educator of the Year and in 2005 was awarded the Outstanding Music Education Alumnus Award by Arizona State University and the prestigious Distinguished Service Award by AMEA. AMEA also presented him a “brick” in the MENC Walk of Fame.

He has been active in festival production for all idioms of music in Arizona and has served as a clinician and adjudicator.


Everett Jay Hilty – Colorado

Picture of Everett Hilty

Everett Jay Hilty describes his introduction to handbells in the 1960s as being “conned into becoming involved … in the Neanderthal days of modern handbell ringing.” The University of Colorado owned 49 Whitechapel handbells for the Modern Choir to use, but they had been retired to a closet, so Chuck Byers asked Everett if he would work with him on a handbell choir. Everett readily agreed; Chuck showed up for the first rehearsal and was never seen again, leaving Everett, who knew nothing whatsoever about handbells, to fend for himself.

Everett’s handbell methods were unique. He “spent hours analyzing ‘busy’ and ‘lazy’ bells in each composition in an attempt to keep all twelve players fairly busy at all times.” This resulted in the necessity for everyone to trade bells between all selections. Everett filled in the lengthy gaps while this was going on with much bell history, composition notes and anecdotes-“anything to keep the show going. Our concerts consisted of a disjointed lecture interspersed with handbell selections.”

Following the University Ringers’ embarrassing participation in the 1972 Area XI festival in Estes Park, they tried the “more or less scale-wise system popularly used throughout belldom.”  Still dissatisfied, Everett returned to the drawing board and devised a new system of bell distribution to keep everyone busy at all times, still in use by a number of bell choirs today. (See OVERTONES 1955-1986, p. 353).

Everett Jay Hilty is well known as an organist, teacher of organ and church music, composer, lecturer, author of several instruction books and numerous articles. His choral, organ, and handbell compositions have been published by twelve major publishers. Everett is also an accomplished carilloneur, often entertaining with the CU carillon before concerts at Macky Auditorium even after his retirement, and he was the official carilloneur for the Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley in 1960.

On the CU faculty from 1940 till 1978, Everett left a legacy in organ and handbells. He designed the Division of Organ and Church Music at CU, and was for many years its head. After retiring as Professor Emeritus, he continued to direct the University handbell ensembles until 1989, including an alumni group  known as The High Plains Ringers.

As a composer, Everett has stretched the traditional concept of melody and harmony, writing music that is rhythmically based and explores the special sonorities of handbells. He has presented workshops at national AGEHR festivals and conventions, as well as conducting regional handbell festivals and workshops.

AGEHR honored Everett Hilty as an “Honorary Life Member,” the Guild’s highest award. He has also received the University of Colorado Distinguished Alumni Award. He is listed in several “Who’s Who” anthologies including the “International Who’s Who in Music,” London.

EPILOGUE – Everett was 96 when he was inducted into the Area 11 Ring of Fame in 2006.  He passed away on November 1, 2006. His Memorial Service was held on March 31, 2007 in Macky Auditorium on the Colorado University Campus in Boulder, CO.

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