Sharon Schmidt, Chair, has been active in Handbell Musicians of America since 1994 when she joined the Illinois State Committee. She’s still on the committee, helping to organize events.

At the national level, Sharon was faculty coordinator for the 2003 National Seminar, chair for ten Distinctly Bronze events from 2004-2013, co-chair for the 2007 Distinctly Bronze European Tour, served on the 2008 International Handbell Symposium Committee, and served as the national Certification Program Coordinator. In 2013, she received the President’s Award in appreciation of her service to the Guild.

After learning to ring in the 1970s, Sharon began directing at Gary UMC in Wheaton, Illinois, in 1985, where she continues to direct Altar Bells and Sanctuary Ringers. A current and charter member of The Agape Ringers, a Chicago-area community handbell ensemble formed in 1992, Sharon was its first president. She has taught many aspects of the art of handbell ringing at the state, area, and national levels since 1995.

Educated as a chemical engineer with BS & MS degrees, Sharon worked at the Amoco Research Center as research engineer, economics analyst, supervisor, and project manager. Since leaving in 1999, she’s studied music theory and accounting, and exercised her project management skills on Guild events and church projects in addition to operating a small business serving the handbell community.

Chris Peck, Chair Elect: was introduced to handbells during his middle school / high school years at King of Kings Lutheran Church in Gardner, Kansas, with Kipp Willnauer.  Chris went on to earn his Bachelor of Arts from Bethany College (Lindsborg, KS) where he had the opportunity to learn from educator, Bethany alum, and Malmark representative, Eunice Tarum.   His senior recital included handbells, both as a soloist and a composer.

Chris went on to teach band and choir in public schools in Kansas and Iowa for several years.  He has been involved with church music for the past twenty-plus years in various churches throughout Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska.  For the past five years, he has served as Director of Choir and Bell Choirs at Trinity Lutheran Church in north Omaha, Nebraska.  Chris is also the Choir / Chime Choir Director at Eastmont Towers, a retirement community in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Chimes have been a recent addition to the activities available at Eastmont while he has been involved there.

Chris rang for several years in the Omaha area bell choir “River City Ringers”, under the direction of Joyce Miller, and is currently ringing in the Lincoln area bell choir “Bell-issimo”, under the direction of Nancy Youngman. Chris is an accomplished handbell composer / arranger of about 10-12 published handbell pieces.

Chris has served Area 8 and the general handbell world in various capacities.   In the early 1990s, he worked behind the scenes at a few Area 8 summer conferences helping shuffle equipment around to various rooms and helping with whatever necessary.    He also served a term as the Area 8 Education (or Chime?) chair.  In the later 1990s, he served a term as Iowa’s chair. He also spent a couple summers as one of the directors of Intergenerational Handbell Camp, in Parkville, Missouri.

When Chris is not directing bells or choir, or driving a school bus for Lincoln Schools, Chris is training for his next marathon.   He is currently training for his first 50-miler, in October.

Chris is married to his wife, Melissa, and live in Lincoln, Nebraska (Go Big Red!)  where they enjoy their small family of rescued cats and dogs.

Beth Ann Edwards, Past Chair,

serves as Director of Arts, Handbells, and Youth Choirs at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Des Moines, Iowa, where she directs four handbell choirs and children’s and youth vocal choirs, oversees all arts programming, and assists with worship planning. She holds a Master of Church Music degree with Handbell Emphasis, a degree in secondary English education, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in visual art, and a Master of Business Administration. 

Her ringing career began 30 years ago in a church handbell choir. For the past 15 years she has attended advanced ringing events including Bay View Week of Handbells and Distinctly Bronze, and currently rings in the community handbell ensemble, HeartBeat. She is a founding member and co-director of Des Moines Concert Handbells, an advanced community handbell ensemble. Beth Ann has directed all ages and levels of handbell ringers since 1999.

The education and networking opportunities provided by Handbell Musicians of America have been instrumental in her development as a ringer and director, and led her to attend graduate school to receive a Master of Church Music degree in 2012 at Concordia University Wisconsin, studying with Dr. John Behnke. She has made life-long friendships through handbell ringing, and has learned first-hand how membership in a handbell choir can change lives.

Beth Ann has been Area 8 Membership Chair, she chairs the Donald E. Allured Original Composition Award committee, and has served as secretary on the Iowa (AGEHR) board. She has held several appointed and elected positions in community and civic organizations including Des Moines Choral Society, Arts in the City, and Junior League.

Beth Ann is married and has three grown children and three grandchildren. She balances her music activities with painting in her studio, travel, knitting, and reading.

Sara Washington, Secretary, started her handbell ringing career at First UMC in Manhattan, KS in 1975 and directing at First Baptist Arlington, TX in 1991. She has been selected for many advanced and auditioned choirs at HMA sponsored events, for the Solo and Ensemble Dream Team, rang at Bay View Week of Handbells, and has rung in and directed choirs across 8 states.

Sara helped start several community choirs: The Rhapsody Ringers of Manhattan, KS (1978), Tulsa Festival Ringers (1991) Kansas City Handbells (1997) and Rezound! Handbell Ensemble of Kansas City (2001), has served two terms as Secretary for Area 8 Handbell Musicians of America, and over the years has directed and taught at festivals, workshops and camps.

Wanting a challenge while living in Atlanta, GA she rang with three advanced choirs: Geneva Ringers at Central Presbyterian Church, The Atlanta Concert Ringers and Golden Bells of Atlanta, and subbed at many churches throughout the city.

Sara and her husband Syl recently moved back to Kansas City to be closer to her huge family (9 sibs + 4 steps and their families). She enjoys family gatherings, biking, walking, baking, sewing, reading and training her new pound puppy, Sisko.

Lori Fenton, Treasurer, started ringing handbells over 35 years ago at her church.  She currently rings with the Des Moines Concert Handbells as well as her church bell choir.  In true bell-addict fashion, she has participated in several national ringing events over the past 15+ years including the Bay View Week of Handbells, Distinctly Bronze East and West and Virtuoso, an advanced ringing event sponsored by the Raleigh Ringers.  She toured Italy with Desert Bells and attended the International Symposium in Vancouver in 2016.

Lori is also a vocalist and sings with numerous groups in Des Moines including the Des Moines Vocal Arts Ensemble, Des Moines Community Orchestra and her church choirs.

Lori is currently serving as the Vice President for the Des Moines Concert Handbells and previously served as Treasurer and President for the the Des Moines Vocal Arts Ensemble.  She co-chaired her company’s United Way Campaign for two years.

Her day job is as a Finance AVP with Global Atlantic Life & Annuity in Des Moines.  In addition to handbells, she is addicted to all things Disney, wine, and cats, currently sharing her home with five of them, all named after composers.