Area 8 2024 Elections

Area 8 Elections Take Place May 31-June 14, 2024

The nominating committee, consisting of Sharon Schmidt, chair, KC Congdon, and Pat Latshaw are excited to present the Area 8 slate of officers. Our bylaws require that each office includes two candidates, and with this slate, we know that Area 8 will be in good hands for the next two years. Elections for Area 8 chair elect, treasurer, and secretary will take place electronically from May 31 through June 14. More information about the voting process is forthcoming. Voting instructions will be sent to the email address listed on your HMA membership. If your membership has expired, renew here. Please review information about the candidates before the election.

Chair Elect Nominees Nancy Blackwell and Laura Olsen

Nancy Blackwell

Nancy Blackwell has been involved in handbells for 25 years – starting with her involvement with the Thanksgiving! Church bell choir, Joyful Noise.  She later earned a spot in the Omaha community choir, River City Ringers.  Throughout the years she attended every Area VIII handbell festival taking classes and performing in Bronzefest.  Her enthusiasm for the art form has recently led her to embrace events like Distinctly Bronze West (2022 and 2023) and the upcoming Bayview Week of Handbells this summer.

Within River City Ringers, Nancy’s commitment extended beyond performances. Serving on the board from 2013 to 2019, she assumed the role of secretary and helped develop the organization’s bylaws and ringer handbook.   Returning to the board in 2022, she is currently serving as board president.

Nancy also dedicates her time to a board position in an international organization focused on providing faith-based support to individuals grappling with mental health challenges and their families.  As well as the board position she has been serving as a group co-facilitator for a decade.

When Nancy is not ringing, she thrives in her role as a computer programmer at an insurance company. She finds joy in quilting, reading, and cherishing precious moments with her family, especially her new grandson, whom she delights in spoiling.

Laura Olsen

Laura Olsen lives in the Chicago area and has been ringing handbells for 22 years. She rings with Chicago Bronze, directs bell choirs at 2 local churches, and has been tuning pianos for 40 years to support her bell habit.  Andrea Handley, the director of Chicago Bronze says she’s a bell nut and Laura thinks she’s right, saying “I love the community of ringers. I’ve been to 4 DBEs and I’m going to Bay View this summer. If there’s anything better than music, I haven’t found it.”

Secretary Nominees Laura Kastens and Julie Murphy

Laura Kastens

Laura Kastens is a retired University of Iowa administrative assistant who lives in Tiffin, Iowa. She came to handbells as a young adult just out of college with a music ed degree from the University of Illinois in hand. The church she attended (Prospect Heights Community in Prospect Heights, IL) wanted to start a handbell choir so she volunteered to learn as much as she could about the instrument and set about recruiting ringers. That was more than 40 years ago. Since then, she has served as director at Missouri United Methodist Church in Columbia, MO, and in her current position at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Iowa City, IA, she directs four ensembles, including an adult beginners’ group, an advanced women’s ensemble, an intergenerational family group, and an advanced adult choir. She also rang with St. Mark’s United Methodist church in Bloomington, IN when she lived in that community. Currently she is a member of RiverBend Bronze based in the Quad Cities.

Since retiring she finds herself agreeing with her parents that retirement is busier than her working years! An active clarinetist, she fills her days playing in the New Horizons band during the year and with the Cedar Rapids Municipal band during the summer, playing pickleball, taking Senior College classes at the University, ushering at various venues, reading, and walking.

Julie Murphy

Julie Murphy recently retired from Principal Financial Group where she worked as a Paralegal Analyst in the areas of benefit plan operations and governance, intellectual property, and human resources.  In addition to her paralegal studies, Julie has degrees in music education, music performance (clarinet) and theory pedagogy, and public administration.  Julie has performed with, and directed, numerous community and semi-professional organizations in both Illinois and Iowa. These include bands, orchestras, big bands, pit orchestras, choruses, and small ensembles.  

She is a founding member and co-director of the Des Moines Concert Handbells.  She learned to ring in junior high and picked it back up for good about 40 years ago.  

She holds Sharon Schmidt, Beth Ann Edwards, and Lori Fenton responsible for dragging her into this crazy bell ringing community.

Treasurer Nominees Tami Kofron and Julia Cozad-Callighan

Julie Cozad-Callighan

Julia Cozad-Callighan has been a bell player since the age of 8 and began ringing in a church choir in her hometown of Bettendorf, IA with her mother.  She was immediately drawn to the low bass and has pretty much stayed down there ever since, though she will play smaller bells if you ask nicely.

Julia currently plays in Riverbend Bronze, a community group based in the Quad Cities, where she resides (in Rock Island, IL).  She also plays in Bells in Motion, formerly of Springfield, IL, now located in Decatur, IL.  In October of 2023, Julia participated in her first Distinctly Bronze West under the direction of Hart Morris.  This August she will attend the International Handbell Symposium in Japan.

Outside of handbells, Julia enjoys board games, baking (she runs a small home bakery), costuming, and weightlifting.  She shares her home with her spouse named Shaun, two guinea pigs named Panda and Bear, and a crested gecko named Gecko.

Julia is excited about the opportunity to be more involved in Area 8.  She currently serves as treasurer for a small local organization and welcomes the chance to stretch her skills further.

Tami Kofron

Tami Kofron was introduced to handbells when her son was about 2 years old.  That was a bit more than 30 years ago, and she enjoys ringing today as much as she did then!

Tami has lived in Cedar Falls most of her life and she graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 1984 with a BA in Administrative Management.  She is currently the Business Manager for Modern Builders, Inc. in Janesville, Iowa, and has been employed there for over thirty years.

When asked about ringing and Area 8, she said “I started ringing handbells around 1990 with my home church. I absolutely LOVE solo ringing and have had the privilege of duet ringing with Carolyn Jensen (also from Cedar Falls) since about 2008.  I’m a member of the handbell choir at St. John Lutheran Church here in Cedar Falls. I also have privilege of directing the handbell choir at my home church, First Christian Church Disciples of Christ. I’ve had the great honor of sharing my love for handbells with both congregations both during worship and for the occasional special event.

In addition to attending various local bell events and our Area VIII handbell festivals, I’ve participated in several national events such as HMA National Seminar, Distinctly Bronze East and West, and SEE (Solo and Ensemble Extravaganza). One of my favorite annual events is the Mid-Iowa Festival held in the Des Moines area each fall!

In 2022, the membership of Area VIII elected me to serve as treasurer.  I’ve learned so much about Area VIII and gotten to know so many more members through my participation. It’s been humbling to really understand all the effort your leadership puts into organizing festival and all the other activities that are supported by Area VIII.”

When she’s not ringing, Tami enjoys living in rural Cedar Falls with her husband, Brad, their dog, Kenzie, and somehow three (and a half) cats.  Playing the piano or crocheting relaxes her in the evenings, and on pretty days, she enjoys riding her bike and being outside taking care of the acreage.