By Sonya Downing | Contributor
Taylor University is a musical campus.
The bell tower chimes hymns, Wengatz boys bless the world with jazz, and angels wish they could sing like members of Chorale. And students join the chorus by flocking to audition for chapel bands, Gospel Choir and the wind and jazz ensembles.
In contrast, the Ringers handbell choir has to fight for new members. Some years, the director, Eva Kwan, professor of music education, can't scrounge up a complete group until half the semester has passed. And when asked, new member sophomore Reilly LaRose said it took a 20-page paper about the benefits of participating in the arts to convince him.
As a Ringer, I was curious about why people showed so little interest in joining. So, while asking (read: begging) friends and friends of friends to audition, I took note of the three common objections: I'm too busy, I'm not good at music and I'm just not interested.
The word "choir" sounds an awful lot like "commitment" to stressed, overworked college students. Thankfully, Ringers only rehearses two hours a week, compared to Chorale's four hours.
Kwan also understands students can't make every practice. She's more than happy to schedule make-up time for students who want it. And if they don't want it, that's fine, too.
As for concerts, Ringers has far fewer concerts than ensembles, and perhaps a chapel performance once in a blue moon.
New members don't need to be musical prodigies to join. Each person only plays two or three notes, so they can just learn to read their own. Sometimes it's helpful to know the other notes, but reading music is easy to pick up.
Playing in a group also means new members can get help when they make a mistake. If they miss a note or lose track of what part of the song they're on, the person beside them can point out where they are.
Anyone scared of being bored has nothing to worry about. Ringers plays its fair share of old-timey hymns, but Kwan takes student suggestions into account, including music composed by the students.
For example, Ringers played the "Pirates of the Caribbean" theme song, "How Far I'll Go" from "Moana", "Bare Necessities" from "The Jungle Book", and medleys of songs from "The Wizard of Oz" and "Aladdin" in concert last year.
Kwan also said Ringers performs in exciting places once in a while. She explained the choir has traveled to Hungary, Czech Republic, Israel, Ireland and Ecuador. So if people join, they may get to go somewhere awesome!
To top it off, students get something out of it: class credit. Students need a participation in the arts credit to graduate, and Taylor's list of gen-ed requirements counts Ringers as one of those.
To join the Taylor song with Ringers, students can attend concerts and snoop on rehearsals in Room 149 in Smith-Hermanson. If they want to audition next semester, they can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd be glad to answer questions or connect them to Kwan.