United States

Meet RSM Pursue Your Passion Winner: Megan Reishus

ARTICLE

I’ve been playing handbells for 21 years, over two thirds of my life. It’s my passion and it’s what I spend basically all of my free time doing. I love the music, the people and perhaps most of all the teamwork that is fundamental to success in the handbell world. I’ve often heard handbell ensemble ringing called “the ultimate team sport” because the music is written like a piano score but is played by multiple people. Each person has their own notes for which they’re responsible, and each note has to be played consistently – both visually and aurally – with the other ringers’ notes to create a smooth musical line and visually pleasing performance. This type of music truly encompasses many of RSM’s core values – particularly teamwork as mentioned above, excellence considering the level at which we strive to perform and stewardship considering that we also teach other musicians.

When I was a student at St. Olaf college, I joined a handbell ensemble that changed my perception of this instrument from a hobby that I enjoyed but to which I didn’t dedicate much effort, to a true passion into which I’ve poured myself completely ever since, striving for excellence in my own personal skills as well as working tirelessly to be a strong member of consistently excellent performing ensembles. In 2011, I moved cross-country and joined two world-class handbell groups right away – a 15-member advanced community handbell ensemble called the Pikes Peak Ringers and the elite Forté Handbell Quartet. This latter group gets to the root of my passion for the instrument. The four of us are great friends and we push each other to new heights every single week. We strive for excellence and never settle for less than our best, and we keep raising that bar when we succeed at short-term goals. In 2016 we were featured performers at the national seminar for the Handbell Musicians of America, our national organization, and the experience of touring across the country and then back home (and playing for that signature event in the middle) was something I’ll never forget.

Because we’re passionate for always getting better and dreaming bigger, we have goals and hopes for continuing to build our skills and share the music of this wonderful instrument that we love with the world. We want to continue to tour to different locations in the U.S. and maybe even internationally, eventually. We also take great pride in our first CD that we produced in 2016, as well as our DVD of music videos produced in the same timeframe, and hope to release more discs in the coming years. Our goal in producing videos of our music was to break away from the standard (for handbells) static camera recording of a concert venue and do something different, so we’ve been working with videographers and creating music videos, recording in locations varying from the top of a mountain to a snowy castle, from train tracks to open fields. We have all sorts of ideas to grow and bring our instrument to the world and challenge (and ultimately overturn) the stereotype of handbells as a novelty instrument only used at Christmas.

However, we have one main obstacle holding us back from the freedom to pursue these ideas without constraint: we don’t own all of the equipment that we use. We borrow a significant portion of our instruments from local churches and community ensembles, and our ability to use them depends on the schedules of the actual owners of the instruments. The equipment that we would need to purchase in order to gain our independence and flexibility, however, is fairly expensive. Even with each of us giving our time, energy and often monetary investment to the group, we know that we will need additional financial support to be able to be free to pursue our shared passion in the near future without limitations. This contest will have such a lasting impact on me and my quartet, since once we purchase the remaining equipment that we don't yet own, we gain the independence to freely pursue this passion for years to come, and the funds from this contest would go a long way toward getting us there.

I think this Pursue Your Passion contest is so incredible. Reading the winning entries from the past two years was so enjoyable and inspiring, and I just hope my passion and proposal for how this contest could help me pursue it will stack up with current year submissions. I also think it would be really rewarding, if I am blessed enough to be selected, for my group to be able to come perform at one of the large RSM conferences held throughout the year, and show off our shiny new instruments in a “thank you” performance. Short of that, it would be my honor to share videos and blog entries of our spring tour from Colorado to Georgia and back – for which the nine additional days off to pursue this passion would be so helpful – as part of the contest follow-up.

In terms of the budget, my immediate goal is to purchase a three octave set of bronze handbells and their protective cases. This would leave my group able to focus our future cash flow toward CD/DVD/music video production and the final octave of bells to complete our primary set.