June 26-29, 2025 | Worcester State University, Worcester, MA
STEVIE BERRYMAN can’t whistle. But she makes fantastic pesto, and she can fold a fitted sheet. Likewise, her skills as music director and teacher have also been acquired through long hours of arduous and dedicated practice. For much of her career Stevie has directed seven or more ensembles each week, meaning she has 114 years of experience (in dog years). Her effusive energy and wild creativity found a perfect setting in 2013 when she became the Artistic Director of the Houston Chamber Ringers, which has let her smash together her love for music, laughter, and tacos in a truly remarkable way. She has a particular passion for teaching beginners how to ring, and her innovative, play-based methods have made her a sought-after educator and clinician at area, national, and international handbell festivals. Stevie serves as the handbell director at First Congregational Church Houston, and co-leads Rocket Bells in League City. She loves helping other choirs as a private clinician or planning epic concerts for them as a creative consultant. She and her husband Paul are co-owners of Truly Horrible Things, a snarky card game company, even though her mother always told her that no one would ever pay her to be sarcastic.
FRED GRAMANN holds organ performance degrees from Syracuse University and the University of Michigan. With his wife Nancy, he went to Paris, France in 1972 for organ study with Marie-Claire Alain and Maurice Duruflé. What was to be a nine-month stint evolved into a 50-year musical adventure in the City of Light. Fred held the position of Director of Music at the American Church in Paris from 1976 to 2022 where he was organist and conducted the choral and handbell program. Fred and Nancy now reside in the French city of Orléans. A well-known composer and internationally known conductor, educator and handbell clinician, he is frequently invited all over the world to conduct handbell festivals. He is the Honorary Associate Director for the Raleigh Ringers of Raleigh, North Carolina, the Embellish Handbell Ensemble of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the Tintabulations Handbell Ensemble of Reno, Nevada. Fred is the director for the Bay View Week of Handbells and has conducted both Distinctly Bronze East and Distinctly Bronze West several times. He is the permanent director for UK Bronze which is held in Sutton, Surrey, England and also conducts BronzeFest which includes bronze-level handbell choirs from Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia.
Handbell Musicians of America, Area 1 will hold its next Festival/Conference from Thursday, June 26 through Sunday, June 29, 2025 at Worcester State University. Festival/Conference is sponsored by Handbell Musicians of America, Area 1 for the benefit of the members of the Handbell Musicians of America and the members of the ensembles that they direct.
Handbell ringers, directors and educators from all over New England and beyond will gather for four days of educational workshops, massed ringing rehearsals, concerts, and the opportunity to network with others who share a love for handbells. The event culminates in a closing concert that is free and open to the public, featuring an hour-long presentation of handbell music rung by hundreds of ringers!
If you have never experienced Festival Conference before, you’re in for an unforgettable weekend with some of the nicest people, superb directors, and the best bell ringing in New England. If you’re a veteran Festival attendee, we look forward to reconnecting with you!
Table of Contents
- Guest Conductors
- What’s New?
- Festival Repertoire
- Scholarship Information
- Sponsorship Opportunities
- Bronze Division Information
- Volunteer at Festival/Conference!
- Why Should I attend Festival Conference?
- What is Massed Ringing?
- Ringing Divisions Explained
- Opening Concert Info
- Closing Concert Details
- Campus info
- Housing Information
- COVID-19 Precautions and Policies
- Conference Fees
- Cancellation Policy
- Rehearsal Notes
- Festival Schedule [separate page]
- Course Offerings [separate page]
- Faculty [separate page]
What’s New at Festival Conference?
We listened! Many of you indicated that you liked the shorter conference, but missed the free time and camaraderie of the longer conference. So, we’re going back to starting on Thursday afternoon with load-in from 2pm-5pm and our first (shorter) rehearsal will start around 6pm.
We will again have 4 mini-concerts, and a Feature Concert with a guest choir (TBA) on Friday evening. Those wishing to perform as soloists, small ensembles, or full choirs during this time are encouraged to sign up on the Group Registration form.
We will gather for a formal dinner and biennial meeting on Friday night before the Feature Concert.
Scholarships are available on a variety of levels. If you are in need of financial assistance in order to attend this event, please review the scholarship information and application directions on our scholarships page.
Bronze Division Info for 2025
*Find out if you Pre-Qualify!*
Please visit the special page we have for all things bronze division.
***WE WELCOME BRONZE ORPHANS, TOO!* (Orphans: those who wish to attend, but are not associated with a group that is attending.)
Volunteers for Festival/Conference 2025
Consider yourself Asked! If you can do any of the following things, please contact Lisa Arnold at [email protected]
- Drivers: We’re looking for people who love to play “Handbell Tetris”! We need drivers to pick up loaner equipment from organizations across New England, then tag, label, and document it. Finally, you get to load it onto a 16’ truck and deliver it to the conference at Worcester State University. Estimated time commitment:
- Wednesday, June 25, 2025: 8:00am to 6:00pm – pick up rental truck & bells
- Wednesday, June 25, 2025: 3 pm to 6 pm (and maybe after dinner) – moving equipment and setting up.
- Thursday, June 26, 2025: 8:00am – 2:00pm (moving equipment and setting up)
- Sunday, June 29, 2025: 4:30pm – 6:00pm – load truck for ride home
- Monday, June 30, 2025: 8:00am – 6:00pm – return bells & rental truck
NOTE: Truck rental, gas, tolls and lodging on Wed & Sun evenings are covered
- Equipment Roadies: We need help getting the equipment from the staging area to the classrooms on Thursday morning and back again on Sunday. If you are willing to help move and set up equipment in the classrooms, please let me know! Time commitment starts at 8am on Thursday.
- Faculty: Do you have a good idea for a class? Are you willing to teach something? If so, contact Stephanie LaShoto-Westfield at [email protected]
- If you want to help out, and the job is not listed here, please let us know! All of our committee members can use extra hands, even if just for a few hours during the festival. More opportunities will be posted as we get closer to the event.
Why should I go to Festival Conference at Area 1?
…to learn new things! Everyone, even the most advanced ringers can learn something new. Maybe it will be in a massed rehearsal, at a class for basic ringing, advanced techniques, an open discussion, or origami, yoga, steel or african drums, ballroom dancing, ear training baseball, how to be a one person handbell choir (using the Acapella app), or even while chatting at mealtime.
…to meet other bell choirs, talk with other ringers and directors, and ring some of the best music available today under the most superb directors
…because if you have never experienced it before, you’re in for an unforgettable weekend with some of the nicest people, and the best bell ringing in New England.
What is Massed Ringing?
If you have never witnessed or participated in a Massed Ring, you are in for a spectacular experience! Imagine the floor of a college basketball arena, packed with 1000 feet of pad-covered tables, 3 choirs across, 10 rows deep, populated with hundreds of handbell ringers, all ringing in sync under the baton of one director. The visuals are amazing, the sound is inspiring, and the encounter is unforgettable.
Most importantly, massed ringing is an opportunity for personal growth. In a situation where you have multiple choirs all ringing the same piece of music, you can feel confident to reach a step or two beyond your usual ringing comfort level, knowing that there are many other ringers who will cover for mistakes and fill in missing notes.
Every ringer should experience a Massed Ring, and there is no better place to do that than Festival Conference.
Ringing Divisions Explained
Tins – A division of massed ringing for beginning/emerging choirs that are generally ringing Level 1-2 music.
Coppers – A division of massed ringing for intermediate/more seasoned choirs that are generally comfortable ringing Level 2-4 music.
Bronze – A division of massed ringing for advanced skill-level choirs that are generally comfortable ringing Level 3-6 music.
For more information about the the handbell and handchime music difficulty level system, visit https://handbellmusicians.org/music-resources/agehr-music-2/notation-guide/
My handbells are all bronze, what's this about tins and coppers?
Handbells are made of bronze, which is an alloy about 20% tin and 80% copper. Handbell Musicians of America uses 'tins', 'coppers', and 'bronze' to group ensembles or ringers into approximate ringing proficiency levels. The group difficulty is generally self-selected by the group as opposed to assigned from the outside. Tins are typically beginning ringers and groups, just getting started on their handbell journey. They may feel most comfortable playing music at a difficulty of level 1 or 2. A group progressing in skill will begin using the term coppers to indicate that they are an intermediate level group. They may feel most comfortable playing level 2-4 music. Bronze level is the term used when referring to groups performing music at a higher difficulty level with strong musicality. Bronze group most often perform music at difficulty levels 3-6 and beyond.
Closing Concert Info
We are likely to livestream this concert. Watch this space for links to come
On Sunday, June 29, from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm, a Closing Concert will be held on the Ringing Floor of the Wellness Center Competition Gym at WSU, 486 Chandler Street, Worcester, Massachusetts. This concert is free and open to the public and will feature music rung by all the participating ringers! At the conclusion of this concert, a free-will offering will be gratefully accepted to benefit the Bradford Endowment Fund, which provides scholarships to handbell ringers and directors attending a regional or national conference or seminar.
If you would like to order a recording of the Closing Concert, you may do so online at this link for a charge of $10. Please be aware that we are only offering a digital download this year. Physical CD’s will not be available.
The closing concert will be livestreamed here:
Worcester State University
The Worcester State University campus is centrally located in Massachusetts and less than a 90 drive from Boston, MA, Providence, RI, Hartford, CT and Concord, NH. The campus is nestled in the residential northwest side of Worcester—the second largest city in New England.
The map below shows where all of our activities will take place:
All non-Commuter conference participants will be housed in either Sheehan Hall or Wasylean Hall.
- Sheehan Hall has either two (2) double or four (4) single rooms with one shared bath. There is a communal gathering space on each floor, and a fitness area and shared kitchen on the second floor.
- Wasylean Hall features apartment-style living areas with 2 single rooms and 2 double rooms, housing 6 people per apartment. There are two bathrooms and two shower rooms per apartment, and each apartment is equipped with a kitchen and common area. The kitchen has a full sized refrigerator, sink, and oven/range.
Special Needs/Handicapped Accessibility
The WSU campus is handicapped accessible. The dining hall, dormitories, classrooms, and ringing arena are close to each other and are handicapped accessible. All apartments have refrigerators in the kitchenette for those who have medication that needs refrigeration. Special dietary, housing or accessibility needs must be detailed during the registration process, as adequate time must be provided to accommodate these needs.
Linens for the bed ARE NOT INCLUDED for 2025. You may choose to bring your own linens or rent them for the event. We are currently getting quotes and hope to provide you with the best deal should you choose to rent linens. The rooms contain a bed, desk, and dresser. They are not furnished with toiletries, desk lights, or kitchen housewares. Laundry Rooms are available in each dormitory.
Bathrooms will have shower curtains and toilet paper provided.
HMA AREA 1 COVID-19 VACCINATION POLICY
PARTICIPANTS & AUDIENCE
Area 1 no longer requires masking for our events for participants or audience members.
All participants and audience members at Area 1 events are strongly encouraged to wear a mask in indoor venues, regardless of their vaccination status. The Area 1 board will revisit this policy and amend it as circumstances change and as required by venue.
By attending/participating, you acknowledge and fully understand the nature and extent of the risk related to the COVID-19 virus and other contagious diseases and agree to attend this event at your own risk. You expressly acknowledge that COVID-19 is highly contagious, and infection can result in death, the risk of infection and transmission are higher in indoor facilities, there are no safety precautions that totally eliminate the risk of contracting COVID-19, and individuals with various underlying medical conditions may experience worse outcomes.
NOTE: Where state, local and/or venue policies vary from the Area 1 policy, the more strict policy will be in effect.
Worcester State University’s COVID-19 Precautions and Policies
In addition to the policy adopted by HMA Area 1 (above), We will be adhering to the Worcester State University requirements based on what phase we are in as a state and nationally. The Worcester State University updated policies can be found at https://www.worcester.edu/about/conference-event-services/covid-19-requirements/
As of 1/26/2023, WSU will not be requiring masking for any of our attendees.