Kristin Kalitowski-Kowal, Chair, is completing her 2nd term as Area 8 Treasurer. She registers Area 8 members for Ring Davenport, coordinates with the Festival venue, and maintains a profitable event budget. She previously served as Illinois Chair, starting mid-term in ‘07 after being Illinois Registrar. That year she also was equipment loan coordinator for the Peoria Area 8 Festival, organizing all those handbell sets! She has maintained her commitment to the Illinois Committee as the current Registrar.
At a young age, Kristin caught the handbell bug, and began ringing at Santa Maria in Mundelein, Illinois. At college she became manager and treble sectional leader for Purdue Bells. When not ringing, she pursued a civil engineering degree. She now works as a senior project engineer at Civiltech, preparing plans and cost estimates for roadway projects from concept to construction.
A current musician with The Agape Ringers, Kristin served four years as President of the group, motivated in both planning and budgeting. Her fiscal responsibility aided the group in planning for their future. She currently organizes the group’s educational events and was co-chair for eight years for the group’s annual holiday production.
Always apt to share her love of handbells, Kristin has taught at private and Guild workshops in the Midwest, and Area 2, 7, 8 and 10 Festivals. Sunday mornings you can find her directing a junior/senior high bell choir at Gary UMC in Wheaton.
The rest of her time is spent with husband Joe and twin daughters who soon will be old enough to love handbells too.
Beth Ann Edwards, Chair-Elect 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 a children’s vocal choir, 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. 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 two grandchildren. She balances her music activities with painting in her studio, travel, knitting, and reading.
Patrick Gagnon, Past Chair, is a music educator dedicated to the development of people who are tuneful, rhythmic, creative, coordinated, and mature. A 1998 graduate from the Boston University College of Fine Arts, he is currently a K-5 music specialist and High School choir director for the South Hardin community schools in Eldora, Iowa.
Patrick is active as a church musician as Director of Music at First Congregational Church UCC in Eldora, where he is cantor, principal pianist and organist, and director of adult and youth vocal and handbell choirs. He is a member of the Hardin County Performance Series, and is director of the Hardin County Community Choir.
Patrick is currently the Iowa Chairperson for the Handbell Musicians of America where he leads an active committee in three annual events for ringers and directors. He has written articles in Quavers, the Area 8 newsletter, has taught at local and regional handbell events.
Before moving to the Midwest, Patrick was active as an educator, church musician, and AGEHR board member in the greater Boston area. He served AGEHR as Massachusetts State Chair, Area 1 FC worship coordinator, Massachusetts Spring Ring chair, Area 1 Directors’ Seminar Co-Chair, Adult Weekend Chair, Area 1 2009 Festival/Conference Chair, Area 1 Chair-Elect, and finally as Area 1 Chair.
In Boston, Patrick was a founding ringer and later associate director of Back Bay Ringers, was a ringer in Merrimack Valley Ringers, was handbell and handchime director at Trinity Lutheran Church, Everett High School, and Billerica Memorial High School.
Patrick and his wife Jodi, director of undergraduate opera and pianist/coach for the Voice Department in the College of Music at Iowa State University, are currently enjoying owning their first home in Hubbard, Iowa. They love gardening, reading, playing and singing, and “raising” their dachshunds, cats, and birds.
Sharon Schmidt, Treasurer, active involvement with Handbell Musicians of America began in 1994 when she joined the Illinois State Committee. She’s still on the committee, serving as chair for her second time following several terms as treasurer.
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 was recently appointed as 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.