Almost anyone can pick up a bell and ring it. There are many that do just that across the country during the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Oklahoma City Handbell Ensemble strives to take handbells not just to a level of playing an instrument but beyond to enjoyable performances. They have participated in the Red Kettle Campaign for the Salvation Army and bring small ensembles of five to six individuals to ring Christmas tunes, drawing people to the kettle and ultimately encouraging more than average donations for the kettles. This is one of the ways that handbells have been used to reach out to the community. Education for area handbell choirs in the form of workshops are also offered to encourage learning new and exciting techniques and reinforcing healthy habits already established.
In addition to reaching out to the community, the ensemble challenges it’s artists with music that is not typically rung in a church choir, which is where many people get their start in handbell ringing. Pushing artists to the edge of their comfort zones in an environment that is safe and encouraging allows the musicians to grow in their capabilities. There is not another organization within 100 miles of our home base offering handbell ringers the opportunity to explore techniques and ring with an accomplished set of musicians like OCHE has to offer. The uniqueness of OCHE is what draws people to the concerts as well as artists to the ensemble.
When I joined the organization in August of 2015 I very quickly became interested in becoming involved in the inner workings of the organization. With a degree in educational administration, I soon found myself elected to the board and asked to serve as the president of the organization. In many ways overseeing the business part of the organization is similar to running a private school. Non-profits operate on limited budgets and rely heavily on developing a strong donor base that can be counted on for contributions.
Relationships with donors and members of the organization alike must be cultivated with care over time, to build trust and confidence in the organization. This can seem quite challenging when the organization is poised for growth and in need of funding to provide for that growth but the donation base has not yet been convinced of the worthiness of the organization. As OCHE sets out for this next fiscal year, it is a goal to prove that our non-profit is indeed worthy of investment, both in time and financial capacities.
Handbells have been a part of my musical life since I was in middle school. I enjoy being able to ring with a group of talented artists as we strive to make OCHE the best organization it can be.
As OCHE continues to advance their abilities and make performances new and entertaining for audiences, more time, money, and effort will need to be put into staging, equipment, and props. Financial resources for these endeavors will need to be cultivated and commitments found from areas outside of the OCHE operating budget. Personnel resources will also need to be developed as artist’s time and talents are valuable. Currently one member of the organization does a good majority of the planning for performance scheduling, staging and props, and marketing. In the future it would be wise for the organization to protect this valuable resource and make sure the individual does not get burned out while shouldering the burden for so many of the tasks. Plans are underway for the board to divide the responsibilities among themselves as well as members of the group to allow for more involvement of members of the organization as well as to protect the time and creativity of the individual. Outside talent can also be sought in an effort to bring fresh ideas and a new perspective to the performing and booking aspects of OCHE.
As with any group of people, OCHE is filled with differing opinions. Some artists are happy with where the organization stands currently in regard to capabilities and performances. Others would like to see the organization move to a semi-professional caliber, and still others would like for OCHE to become a professional level handbell ensemble. Discerning how far to push the artists and what the long term goals of OCHE are is a challenge that each board must deal with. Five members from within the organization are elected to conduct the business for the year to come. It is the goal of the board to keep differing opinions in mind as decisions are made so that the organization can continue to build a name for itself within the Oklahoma City community, considering our educational outreach as well as the performing aspect of our ensemble. The board continues to strive toward harmony and compromise within the artists, knowing that the artists are the greatest asset our organization can lay claim to. Clear communication is one area that has room for improvement and will be a focus of the board to offer more opportunities to more easily keep artists in the loop of the business dealings of the organization.
Allowing an organization to grow at the proper rate for the personnel involved is a tricky balance of pushing just enough to allow members to grow without burning people out from frustration. The organization is established enough that a favorable name is being made within our community which is allowing for more opportunities to expand our repertoire and how we reach out through education and performances. As the organization grows, each workshop, concert, and private event needs to be just a bit more refined than the last, without setting standards so high that the organization cannot achieve them. The board must keep a close eye on artist capabilities as well as public reactions and provide adjustments to the course as needed.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
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