Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jennifer Simms

Heatherwood Students Ring in the Holidays


December 16, 2016

Photo by Jennifer Simms Students (from left) Oliver Jones, Bennett McDannell, and Madison Watson perform Jingle Bells during Heatherwood Elementary School’s handbell choir concert at Barnes and Noble.

Bells rang out holiday carols at Barnes and Noble as the Heatherwood Huskies Handbell Choir, led by the school’s new music teacher, Lynette Schulz, delighted families and shoppers during their debut performance, as part of the school’s music department book fair fundraiser.

“I chose handbells to start with because I knew it would be something new, something the kids would be excited about,” Schulz said when explaining her decision to launch the group this past fall. She also felt it would be a good way to introduce herself to the school community and establish her expectations for her students. “It shows where my comfort level is, and it show that my bar for the kids is set pretty high,” Schulz said.

To prepare for the concert, which featured four holiday songs, the 19 fourth and fifth grade students had been practicing on Friday afternoons since mid-September. Schulz was quick to point out, however, that handbell rehearsals are about more than just learning how to play the music. It is also essential for the group to come together as a team. “Everyone has to rely on each other,” Schulz explained. “There’s nothing about it that’s individual.”

Thus far, Schulz’s ringers, as she calls her handbell students, have responded well to the challenge. “I went in there not knowing what handbells was and she [Schulz] showed us how to play,” said Bennett McDannell, a fourth grader in the choir. “And she makes jokes like when we put down the bells she says, ‘smooshed ice cream cones down,’ and it makes it fun.”

“I like that I get to hang out and make new friends,” fifth grade ringer Luc Lesperance said of his experience in the choir. “I also like making music.”

Though the choir is new to Heatherwood, directing handbells is not new to Schulz, who has taught in the Boulder Valley School District for seventeen years, splitting her days between Louisville Elementary and Superior Elementary. While at Louisville she launched a handbell choir that became a beloved school tradition. “My largest group was 34 students,” Schulz said, adding that she hopes to make handbells something fourth and fifth graders at Heatherwood will look forward to as well.

In the past, Heatherwood’s music teacher has directed a vocal performance group, called Hot Shots, which Schulz assures the community she does have plans to relaunch after winter break. She intends to have the two groups run simultaneously, as long as the school has the funding to support them, and plans a combined concert with singers and ringers in the spring.

“I always believe that if you build it they will come,” Schulz said of starting the new handbell group. “If you don’t challenge them, what’s the point? That’s how they’re going to grow. A lot of kids don’t know what they can accomplish until they are pushed. I think we underestimate what they can do. I don’t ever want to sell the kids short for what they can do.”


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