Iowa Handbell Musicians of America Committee

The Iowa Chapter of the national Handbell Musicians of America is part of Area 8 (which consists of Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska). Area 8 has a set of officers, and each state with the area has a set of officers. The Iowa officers for 2010-2011 are listed below. Please contact any of us if we can assist with your handbell efforts.

Chair: Patrick Gagnon, 211 South Victor, PO Box 314, Hubbard, IA 50122, 641-858-7616 Email

Treasurer: Mary Lee Parks, (First United Methodist Church, Marion, Iowa) 2130 26th St., Marion, IA 52302, 319-377-8632 Email

Secretary: Donna Sprague (First Lutheran Church) 1709 23rd Street NW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 52405 319-396-6588 (H) 319-573-2631 (C) Email

Chimes Chair:  Email

Eastern Iowa Representative: Cat Walker (St. John’s Lutheran Church, St. Donatus, IA), 28337 400th St., Bellevue, IA 52031, 563-581-9595 Email

Western Iowa Representative: Yvonne Johnson (Bethesda Lutheran Church, Clarinda, IA) 1339 Q Avenue, Clarinda, IA 51632, 712-586-4504 Email

Historian: Christina “Tina” Elwood Gehrke (St John’s Lutheran Church in Ely, IA), 1592 Bramblewood Drive NE, Solon, IA 52333 Email

Committee Biographies

FentonLoriLori Fenton, Chair – 
Lori started ringing handbells over 30 years ago in Sioux City.  She currently rings at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Des Moines.  In true bell-addict fashion, she has participated in several ringing events over the past 15 years including the Bay View Week of Handbells, Distinctly Bronze East and the inaugural Virtuoso advanced ringing event sponsored by the Raleigh Ringers.  She toured in Italy with Desert Bells and is looking forward to attending her first International Symposium in 2016.

Lori is also a vocalist and sings with the Des Moines Vocal Arts Ensemble, currently serving as Treasurer for the group, previously having served as President for four years.  She also sings with the Howells Scholars at St. Paul’s Episcopal church several times a year.

Her day job is as a Finance AVP with Global Atlantic Life & Annuity in Des Moines.  In addition to handbells, she is addicted to Disney, wine, and cats, currently sharing her home with four of them.

Mary Lee Parks, Treasurer – Mary Lee has been directing handbell choirs at Marion First United Methodist since December of 1984 when the church received its first 3 octaves of Schulmerich handbells. Marion FUMC now has a 5 octave set of Schulmerich handbells plus doubles of D#6 up through D#7; a 3 octave set of Schulmerich handbells; as well as a 3 octave set of Suzuki chimes, and a 5½ octave set of Malmark chimes.

Her choirs “praise the Lord” once a month in church – including small groups during the summer – and ring a Christmas concert and a spring concert. This past Christmas a small ensemble also rang “real handbells” at Village Ridge, an assisted living community, and then enjoyed some audience participation with the Krystal Bells (colored bells)!

The “oldest” church choir has had the honor of ringing with the Cedar Rapids Symphony several times on their Holiday Pops Concert. Mary Lee graduated from UNI with a major in math and a minor in music.

She is the Service Manager for Future Systems, a payroll processing company, in Cedar Rapids. When not ringing, Mary Lee enjoys spending time with her three grown children, but actually enjoys spending more time with her three grandchildren!


Donna Sprague, Secretary – Donna was born in Fort Dodge, IA.  She and her husband moved to Cedar Rapids in 1995 with MidAmerican Energy.  Donna retired in 2007 and works 15 hours a week as the assistant to the Quality Manager at Timberline Mfg, Marion, IA.

The Spragues are a combined family with 5 grown children and 10 grandchildren.  The oldest was married last weekend and the youngest is 8.  Donna has been playing handbells for almost 40 years, and is very active in church on many levels.  Her hobbies include reading, golfing, quilting, crocheting and learning new crafts.

Donna and her husband and are avid University of Iowa sports fans and attend most home games.

Aaron Hansen, Chimes Chair – Aaron Hansen, Chimes Chair-Aaron Hansen currently teaches 5-6 general music, chorus, band, percussion ensemble, and recorder ensemble in the Waverly-Shell Rock School District.

Aaron directs two adult choirs, Les Cloches d’Or and Chapel Ringers, and rings in Tower Bells at First United Methodist Church in Cedar Falls, IA.  As a handbell soloist, Aaron has performed across the country and was a featured soloist with the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra in 1999 and 2002.

Aaron has recorded two holiday handbell CDs, Holidays in Bronze and Winter Moon.  Aaron has attended and conducted workshops throughout the United States and presented a chime workshop at the IMEA Convention in Ames.

Christina “Tina” Elwood Gehrke, Historian – Tina is currently Director of English Handbell Choir at St John’s Lutheran Church in Ely, Iowa.  There she directs their handbell choir, St John’s Ringers, since 2007.  St John’s Ringers have 2 octaves of Schulmerich handbells.

Tina is a graduate of Wartburg College where she was involved with the College Choir in Waverly, Iowa.  She works at Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids and volunteers for the Iowa Valley Resource and Conservation Board ( where she is President. In her spare time,

Tina plays the trumpet and french horn with her sons.  Tina resides in rural Solon with her two sons and husband, Brad.

Yvonne Johnson, Western Iowa Representative – Yvonne directs a three octave handbell choir, a recorder consort and is organist at Bethesda Lutheran Church, a rural congregation near Clarinda, Iowa.

She received a BME from Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, a MA from Columbia Teacher’s college and Orff Schulwerk certification from DePaul University.

Yvonne taught public school music in New Jersey, New York, Germany, Iowa and Minnesota before retiring to the family farm.
She studied Swedish classical vocal music in Stockholm and has given Swedish recitals in the Midwest. Every summer she teaches Swedish School, a week long workshop for elementary children.

Cat Walker, Eastern Iowa Representative – Cat is the handbell director of 2 octaves of Malmarks at St. John’s Lutheran Church in St. Donatus, IA and has been since she helped bring these beautiful instruments to the church in 2010.

She is also a member of the St. John’s Lutheran Church Chime choir in Bellevue, IA where she gets to play and guest directs once or twice a season.

Cat graduated from Cornell College with a degree in Russian and Economics, then went back to school for Early Childhood Education. She is an Assistant Teacher at Dubuque Montessori School and is currently working towards her Montessori Early Childhood credential. She lives in Bellevue with her husband and two children.