Years ago Joe Pinson found a set of hand bells locked in a closet at the Denton State School with a note that said “do not touch.” Being a music therapist he got an idea. Not only did he touch them but he wanted his students to play them, and he started a hand bell choir for his students. The challenge was that his students all had developmental disabilities.
It would take a couple years to finally get the band to play a recognizable tune, but Pinson was determined to make it work and now takes the Denton Bell Band on tour every spring and plays other concerts through out the year.
I went to one of their practices recently and was really impressed with their music. It may not be perfect but it was very enjoyable to see the big smiles on each face and know the pride that they have in the music they produce.
With a wide range of disabilities Joe has had to be creative in finding ways to help members be a part of the band. Some are able to read a special chart with numbers that correlate with a number on the bell and they ring the right bell as the director taps the chart. While others who are unable to read the chart are cued manually by a director. Recently one member lost his sight and Joe found a device that they slip in his sock that vibrates and signals him to ring his bell.
The band is a non-profit organization that is funded by some grants and private donations. If you would like to help fund the band you can go to http://www.bellband.org to find out how to make a donation. I can tell you if you visit them or go to a concert you will not be able to keep a smile from your face because the joy that these band members have is contagious.