The Handbell Ensemble takes their talents on the road


Trinity is home to a music ensemble that combines melodic unity and unique history, the Handbell Ensemble.

Initially established in 1977, the Trinity University Handbell Ensemble is not only one of the oldest ensembles on campus but is one of the oldest academic handbell ensembles in the country. Dr. Diane Persellin has been the director of the ensemble for 38 years and is extremely proud of how the ensemble has evolved.

“It was the idea of a student back in 1976, and since then it’s really been student-driven and student-inspired,” Persellin said.

Since its establishment, the Handbell Ensemble has grown to be well-known amongst the community, giving the group great opportunities.

Each semester is packed with performances with the fall semester of every other year featuring a performance with the San Antonio Symphony at their Holiday Pops Concert. This year, however, the ensemble has been given the opportunity to perform in New York City.

“I’m so proud of the ensemble this semester because we’ve been working really hard and haven’t really gotten a lot of recognition on campus,” said Ethan Jones, a junior member of the ensemble. “Now it’s finally paying off.”

The Handbell Ensemble will be giving three major performances while in New York in November. They will begin their trip as the opening act for the Rockettes in Radio City Music Hall before performing in Central Park the following day. Their trip will end with a performance in Carnegie Hall as part of their Great Christmas Ring.

“We’re so honored to be able to do this and we have a very generous donor who is making this all possible,” Persellin said.

Until then, the group is putting their all into their twice-weekly rehearsals in order to perfect their repertoire. Though it is a lot of work, all of the 19 students involved enjoy being a part of the group. Jones joined the ensemble during the spring semester of his 1st year. As a piano performance major, Jones is involved in a number of ensembles on campus, but the Handbell Ensemble has proved to be especially rewarding.

“I like this ensemble because of the people it brings in a wide variety of people who not only play a variety of instruments but come from different pockets on campus, and we unite through this unique type of music,” Jones said. “It’s really rewarding to look around during rehearsal and see everyone working hard to bring everything together.”

Senior Ciara McDaniel also decided to join the ensemble in her sophomore year. A music education major, McDaniel has been involved in almost every ensemble on campus, and the Handbell Ensemble has been one of her favorites.

“I like it because it’s more fun for me. As a music education major, music has become pretty stressful in ensembles where I play my primary instrument and a lot is expected of me,” McDaniel said. “It’s not that there’s not a lot expected of you in handbell ensemble. It’s just a more fun environment and a lot more laid back.”

Through all their rehearsals, members of the ensemble have become close-knit, as seen during Alumni Weekend.

On Oct. 5, the Handbell Ensemble held a reunion concert during which alumni and current members performed three songs together, including a piece composed by a former student. The turnout at the reunion concert showed how much being in this ensemble unites its members.

“Handbell is a team sport. There’s no first chair or second chair,” Jones said. “We all have to work together in order to create the sound.”

“Every person in the ensemble is so important because if you’re not there your bells don’t get rung. Each person is responsible for the success of the ensemble,” Persellin said.

The Handbell Ensemble holds auditions once a semester and is always looking for new members.

Membership is not limited to music majors and anyone is welcome to audition, though members need to be able to read complex rhythms.

You can hear them perform on Dec. 6 at the annual Christmas Concert, in Laurie Auditorium.