<i>Southwestern High School Music Program awarded grant</i>

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Pictured is Mrs. Jenny Denney, choir director at SWHS, holding one of Southwestern's newly refurbished handbells. Mrs. Denny teaches handbells through the general music courses and dual credit MUS100 through SCC.

Southwestern High School's Music program has received a $3,000 grant from Handbell Musicians of America to expand the school's handbell program as a part of the general music curriculum. The grant made it possible for Southwestern to refurbish the handbells currently used at the school. SWHS Music teacher and grant writer, Jenny Denney, is overjoyed to have received the grant which will allow her to move the handbell program into the 21st century.

Denney began employing the handbells as a part of her music class about five years ago. They were bells that she found in a closet at the school and were manufactured during the 1990's. She began using a set of handchimes purchased by the school and then with careful use after minor repairs, she began to employ the bells in class, giving her beginning music students hands-on experience in creating music.

"The first year was eye opening." Denney said when talking about the effects that handbells first had in her class, "Students with no previous music experience were able to quickly pick up the techniques of playing, enjoyed playing together and also held each other accountable." She was surprised and pleased to hear her students say, "this is my favorite class!"

"I found that students who wouldn't normally choose or even succeed in a band or choral ensemble found success and music appreciation through the handbell program." Denney said.

She also shared, "My favorite part is when students come in the first day and watch YouTube videos of handbell groups and look at me like I'm crazy. Within a week they're totally bought into the fun and enjoyment of handbell playing."

Denney asserts that handbells give the students an opportunity to receive an art credit when music isn't their main interest but come to discover a discipline in which they find joy and success. "This grant has made our continuing this possible." The use of handbells had an enormous impact on the music classes. Denney's classes were growing and the school supported the handbell program. As time went on, there arose an obvious need for an upgrade of the equipment. It was then that she discovered the Handbell Musicians of America grant, which turned out to be a perfect fit for both parties.

Denney was delighted to recently learn that her program will be featured in an upcoming edition of "Overtones," a publication of the Handbell Musicians of America.

Denney said the goals of Southwestern Handbell program are to offer a safe place for students to gain beginning skills and techniques on the bells and further advance their skills, learn the benefits of participating in a music ensemble, and provide the experience of performing music.

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