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Bringing Handbell Artistry to New Heights

Meet Our Members

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Phillip Lanier

Charter Member

Phillip began playing handbells when he attended a church music conference in Ridgcrest, North Carolina taught by Christine Anderson. Since then he has directed several church choirs, written several compositions for bells and many teaching aids for the Stafford Regional Handbell Societies "Bells After School" program. In addition to being the director for Castings, he also directs Grace Notes - the society's adult beginning handbell ensemble for adults with special needs and Velocity - The society's advanced handbell ensemble. His favorite position to play is Low Bass 000 but will play any position he can or is asked to, even position 11 (The super tiny bells). In addition to playing and writing music for bells, he is an active composer and arranger and owner of Lanier Music Services. In his spare time he enjoys spending time with his family, watching movies and teaching motorcycle safety courses.

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Neesa Hart

Charter Member

Started ringing bells at age 9 after 6 years of piano -- Book 1. When it became clear that no progress was going to be made on the keyboard, her mother dragged her to the church music director, like Hannah of old, and threw her at his feet begging for something-- anything -- that might trigger a love and ability for instrumental music. F4 and G4 did the trick. She has been ringing ever since. She has rung in churches and community groups, and currently rings and/or co-directs Velocity and Accelerando, its most advanced youth ensembles, and its Intermediate level 2 children's ensemble. She is the director of the Society's Bells After School program. Neesa is a 2x alumna of Distinctly Bronze East, has attended Handbell Musicians of America's National Seminar and Pinnacle events, has taken a Handbell Musicians of America Master Class and is just nerdy enough to surf the internet looking at things like "handbell patents." She is also the co-creator of The Great Christmas Ring -- a mass ringing event she and Phillip Lanier are working to bring to audiences nationwide.

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Melissa Erikson

Charter Member

Music has always been a part of Melissa’a life.Throughout Melissa's life she has been involved in various singing opportunites and it was her first love. Following singing was playing the flute and piccolo in band and dabbling with the piano. In her forties, Melissa realized that making music was missing in her life. There was a music shaped hole that need to be filled. Melissa saw an advertisement about the formation of an adult community handbell ringing group. A phone call was made and she was invited to come to a rehearsal. Melissa was hooked after the first rehearsal. This was something she could do and could get better at. And she was not too old. Melissa started ringing bells in the first adult group started in Stafford Handbells. Ringing handbells has been fun, challenging, new, rigorous, and life changing. Even though she started later in life, handbells has provided a new medium to make music and a challenge. Melissa says “ I am inspired and encouraged every time I ring with my group. We work and grow and learn together. Many teach me by their actions and attitudes and character. No matter our walk of life , we come together and make good music. I am blessed by the ringers I am fortunate to ring with”. Melissa fills the rest of her life with walking, reading, cooking, gardening and family.

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Cathy Groel

At six years of age, Cathy's mother placed a D6 in her hand and told her to play the light blue colored notes on a poster board sized copy of "Away in a Manger." Her mother counted and pointed, the kids rang, and Cathy was hooked. Since then, she has played different positions at the table with church handbell choirs throughout her life, and she is thrilled by the challenge that Castings offers. She enjoys the deep connection with sacred music, the fun of popular tunes, and the close knit fellowship of playing with friends in small ensembles or duet ringing.

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Katie Kennedy

Katie began her ringing career WAAAAAAY back in elementary school. She played in her school’s auditioned all chime choir (Malmarks of course!) She had seen handbells played in church many times, but it always seemed like something “only adults do.” Years went by and she met Neesa and Phillip the summer after her first semester in college. She finally saw that kids really DO and CAN play handbells! She loves being at both sides of the table, directing and playing! When she’s not playing or working with the Society, she enjoys reading, spending time with friends and family and binge watching new TV shows on Netflix.

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On Sabbatical

Jennifer Matarese

Native to Fredericksburg, Jennifer was introduced to handbells by her friend and neighbor at her local church in 2001. Her background in piano and the flute helped her transition into playing handbells. While playing in the church handbell choir, she was introduced to all types of pieces and was able to travle to a convention held in Hampton Roads. Even after graduating high school and moving away to colege, she would always come back to the choir when she was home. After returning home from school, she took a more permanent position in the adult choir. It was during this time that she was introduced to Phillip Lanier, Neesa Hart and Katie Kennedy. Phillip invited her to attend a rehearsal with the Castings ensemble and has been with the society ever since. She loves the challenge of the pieces played by the ensemble and the growth it offers her in her playing skills. Aside from attending rehearsals, Jennifer loves spending time in the mountains, attending local blugrass performances, traveling and reading

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Thomas Lanier

Thomas began his ringing career with the Parkview Baptist Church Kingdom Kid's handbell program in 3rd grade and has been ringing bells mostly by choice for the past 16 years. In addition to playing in Castings, he also directs Bellistic and Overtones the Society's intermediate ensembles for children and subs in willingly for any other group his father asks him to. This year Thomas will be taking the direction of Jubellation - our adult beginning ensemble. He was a charter member of Ring It! the Stafford Regional Handbell Societies premeire student group and was a part of their success in gaining multiple superior ratings. Thomas loves to play low bass bells and chimes and secretly wants a C2 for Christmas. An honor graduate of the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg with a degree in Communications and Digital Studies.

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On Sabbatical

Bob McNichols

Bob had his first taste of handbells at Kirkwood Presbyterian church in Springfield, VA in his late teens. He was fascinated by the challenge of playing multiple positions at once and thoroughly loved the gorgeous sound of the bells all being played together. He went on to music school and has been an audio engineer for many years. When his oldest daughter went off to college, Bob joined Castings to improve his bell skills and his personal happiness. “Project Me” Handbells bring such great joy to his heart. He currently also plays at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg and Tabernacle United Methodist Church. He is also sharing his love of bells in another Stafford group Velocity. He does handbell repairs and refurbishments for Bob's Beautiful Bells.

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Mary de Leon

We are so excited to have Mary ringing with Castings. Mary is an extremely flexible player being willing to play at almost any position at the table, including the low bass table. She works tirelessly at performing her best at all times and is one of our upper treble bell experts.


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Taylor Keith

Taylor has been playing handbells since he was a child. He was actually in the handbell choir of one of our members as a child. Taylor loves to play bells and can't get enough of them. He loves to challenge himself and will play every position at the table, just not all of them at once. In addition to handbells Taylor works for the Spotsylvania county school system.

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Jennifer See

Jennifer loves handbells so much she drives almost an hour each week to play with us. She has a willing spirit and is always ready to fill in wherever the need arises. She plays all positions and is always there to be a helping hand to any of our members. She is a joy to have and a wonderful musician.

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Anthony Bongolan

Anthony has a great enthusiasm for playing bells and chimes. Anthony came to Castings through Mary and we have loved having him these past two seasons. Though primarily a low bass specialist you can find Anthony playing all over the table or his new favorite love, the timpani.

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Constance Tyler

A retired middle school band teacher, Connie's first experience with handbells started in 2013. Since she has had plenty of experience with all band and orchestra instruments, a new goal was set to learn about handbells performance and directing by attending the many workshops offered by area 3 Handbell Musicians of America. She is a member of the orchestra and handbell group at First Baptist Church of Woodbridge and a regular ringer with the First United Presbyterian of Woodbridge. In addition to handbells, she plays oboe and English horn with the Manassas Symphony Orchestra.. She feels much honored to be part of the Stafford Regional Handbell Society.

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Melissa Wells

Melissa’s handbell adventure began when she was in third grade as a member of her church’s youngest bell choir. It took her many years to realize that one of her favorite treble bell techniques was not called “foreign hand” but actually “4-in-hand”! She continued ringing with the church handbell groups through high school, and then she left for college. While in college and in the years following, she played with her new church’s handbell group periodically and also incorporated handbell ensembles into the children’s and youth choirs, which she accompanied/directed. Though she had to take a brief hiatus from ensembles to complete her doctoral studies, she is excited to be back in the “ring” of things with Castings! In addition to her day job as an Assistant Professor of Early Literacy at the University of Mary Washington, Melissa enjoys other musical exploits (she plays piano, flute, and sings), reading, and traveling.

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Wendy Luikart

Music has been a big part of Wendy's life. She already played piano and flute when her church in Charleston, WV purchased its first set of handbells, as she was starting 9th grade. The group, made up of teens, played all over the valley and participated in several AGEHR handbell festival conferences on the East Coast. When she started college the school had a handbell choir, which the computer science major joined and performed with for three years. After spending 30 years following her Marine husband around the county, they settled in Northern Virginia upon his military retirement. Last year Wendy's husband saw an ad for the Stafford Regional Handbell Society, and she decided she should try picking up playing again. She vastly enjoys playing music after all these years with this group of wonderful players.

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Robert Wells

Robert is a pianist, oboist, and music theorist who is excited to be venturing into the world of handbells with Castings this season. While he grew up enjoying the music of the handbell choir at his church in South Carolina, Robert had not lain his own hand on a bell until 2019. He looks forward to helping make the beautiful music he has always enjoyed hearing! Outside of Castings, Robert is starting his first year as Assistant Professor of Music Theory and Director of Keyboard Studies at the University of Mary Washington. In addition to teaching music theory and piano, Robert is the director of the UMW Indian Music Ensemble, which specializes in performing North and South Indian classical music. When not teaching or making music, Robert enjoys origami, Gregg shorthand, and riding roller coasters (real and virtual).

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Barb Langworthy

Barb started ringing at her church in Ontario, Ca after years of piano followed by organ lessons and of course singing in choir(s), this continued even after moving to Paradise, Ca. Her music then evolved into learning several other instruments which led to positions as Music Director at churches in Washington and Virginia (which means she’s comfortable being on both sides of the table - directing as well as ringing) in addition to having a very successful private teaching career.
Barb believes that there’s always something more to learn which is why she’s usually first in line to volunteer to help in any way she can. She’s been known to say, “Music isn’t just a part of life, music IS life!”

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Marquis Hodgson

Marquis got his start playing handbells in the Bells After School program. He is an avid Low Bass Specialist and therefore can't ever have enough bells to play.  In addition to being a student at Germanna Community College, Marquis is also a member of the Bells After School staff serving as an instructor and the Society's Chief Bell Technician.

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Maria Terry

Maria was first introduced to handbells in elementary, when the music teacher started an after school bell choir. She also was able to participate in a bell kids summer camp. When the music teacher left, so did the bells, so Maria had to focus on other instruments. She started on the flute, and has dabbled in the guitar, alto sax, tenor sax, oboe, and bassoon (her personal favorite), as well as an a cappella barbershop choir. Years later, as a senior in high school, Maria, her sister, and mother, signed up for a handbell class at a local community college so that one child's hobby could turn into a family affair. Since then, Maria has participated in church and private handbell choirs with her family in her hometown of Phoenix, AZ, and in Arlington, VA, along with a community band in Alexandria, VA. After moving to Stafford in 2020, she saw an ad on the road for After School Bells and a facebook post mentioning Stafford Bells and is happy to once again be ringing. Maria is currently a mom to 3 girls, has a degree in anthropology, speaks Mandarin Chinese, and enjoys music, sewing, and sports. One of her favorite musical accomplishments is performing the National Anthem at baseball games and so far has sung at 2 MLB games, and rung at 2 MLB and 1 MiLB.

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Felicity DeToll

Felicity was first introduced to handbells in 4th grade when she attended Mount Ararat Baptist church. Upon graduating Mountain View high school and the handbell group Ring It, Felicity continued her love of playing handbells at Blacksburg Baptist Church while attending Virginia tech. After graduation, Felicity picked up where she left off and joined the group Castings to continue her love for handbells. Felicity is excited to back at Stafford Regional handbells Society and looks forward to enhancing her handbells skills.

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Faith Fraley

Faith started playing music at the age of 6. She played piano for 4 years before switching to guitar for another 2 years. She then joined the Stafford Regional Handbell Society at 12 and began as a member of Overtones, one of the society’s youth ensembles. Faith eventually moved up to Ring It, where she played until she graduated high school. She has many fond memories of different events and experiences in her time at the Society, including participating in the first ever National Honors Handbell Ensemble in 2016, and performing at Disney World as a part of the 2021 National Honors Handbell Ensemble. Outside of her musical life, Faith is a senior at the University of Mary Washington, where she is majoring in Conservation Biology and minoring in Geographic Information Systems. She is a lifelong lover of nature and wildlife, an avid birdwatcher, and hopes to start a career in wildlife rehabilitation after graduation.

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Mary Westbrook - Distinquished Alumni

While serving as a part-time choir director for a small Baptist church in the 90's, Mary was asked by her pastor what she knew about handbells. The answer: nothing. That summer when she brought her middle-schoolers to choir camp, she took the beginning class on ringing bells. And the love affair has continued since. She directed the bell choir at Peace United Methodist Church. When not at the bell table, she was a full-time cataloger for the Central Rappahannock Regional Library system. A dedicated and well loved member of the Stafford Regional Handbell Society. Her love for bells continues on today through the generous gifts made in her honor at her passing. We miss you Mary so much and you will always be a part of the fabric of our lives.

Other Castings Alumni

  • Greg Gunther
  • Raynelle Lanier - Charter Member
  • Karen Eckerd
  • Brian Lamb
  • Theresa Gigante
  • Virginia Clement - Charter Member
  • Carol Mae - Charter Member
  • Lauren Shaw - Charter Member
  • Zana Kissee
  • Katie Haywood
  • Susan Morgan
  • Jordan Biscardo
  • Karen Allen
  • Emily Peachey - Charter Member
  • Cosmo Gigante
  • Sue Forbey - Charter Member
  • Pam Smith - Charter Member
  • Carolyn Sulima
  • Scott Fleck
  • Carolyn Sharpe
  • Ryen Stahl - Charter Member
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