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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Lucy was introduced to music at the age of 4 when her older sister had a desire to be a music teacher so she began teaching young Lucy the clarinet. She continued her music all throughout Elementary School, High school and College studying Music Performance. During this period Lucy began learning and mastering several more instruments to include saxophone for jazz band, bass, Latin percussion and the theremin without having private instruction. Lucy was introduced to handbells around 10 years old at an after school program where a lovely handbell director decided to volunteer a semester teaching low income children handbells/chimes. When she moved to Virginia for work, she saw a video on Facebook of a handbell choir which evoked fond memories of when she had first played the handbells at 10 years old. She commented on the Facebook video stating how much she misses handbells resulting in Neesa reaching out to her and asked if she has interest in joining Stafford handbells and found her place with the handball society. Lucy enjoyed the privilege of performing with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, several Latin Jazz/Salsa groups in northern New Jersey and other miscellaneous groups throughout her musical career.
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.
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.
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.