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Desert Bells



To transform music into sounds that touch the soul with renewed spirit and passion.


To preserve and expand the art of handbell ringing, develop life and leadership skills, and further musical excellence.

Organization Objectives

• Drive, Build and Inspire youth
• Compel personal and intellectual growth
• Inspire teamwork by developing musical skills in a cooperative atmosphere
• Foster recognition of and respect for individual differences
• Create an environment in which each member’s potential may be realized


In March 1991 Kay Cook realized her dream of forming a community handbell ensemble for youth.  Her goal was to provide a vehicle for artistic excellence, as well as personal growth and development.  Her 20 years of handbell conducting in a liturgical environment, combined with her philosophy of community outreach, played an important role in creating Desert Bells International.  Today, Desert Bells International (DBI) consists of 3 performing ensembles and has members ages 6 to adult.  All musicians involved in Desert Bells desire to pursue musical excellence and further the art of English Handbell ringing.

The name Desert Bells reflects the group’s southwestern roots.  “Arizona’s Handbell Symphonics,” part of the trademark, signifies the innovative nature of the ensemble and its diverse repertoire – traditional to jazz and classical to rock.

Twenty-one ringers of varying levels of skill, high-school age through college, participated in the inaugural group.  The ensemble’s success was instant and meteoric. After only five months of rehearsals, the Desert Bells performance at Handbell Exploration ’91 brought the audience to their feet.  One month later the ringers accepted an invitation to Hollywood to record with the Tonight Show Orchestra for Doc Severinsen’s 1991 Christmas CD.  Desert Bells has continued Ms. Cook’s tradition of performing with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra during the annual Holiday Concert Series.

In 1998, Bronzeworks was invited to participate in both the nationally televised 8th International Handbell Symposium in Tokyo and the annual Hiroshima Peace Festival. They also performed in Kamakura and at Yakota Air Force Base Chapel. 

Desert Bells is well known throughout the musical world via recordings with Hope Publishing Company, which previews newly published works using premiere performing ensembles.  Bronzeworks performed the western premiere of Dr. William Payn’s Heart Melodies on November 30, 1999 with the ASU Chamber orchestra under the baton of Dr. Timothy Russell.  Bronzeworks also recorded a DVD featuring “Heart Melodies” and orchestra.

Bronzeworks has toured the eastern and western United States, Hawaii, Great Britain, Australia, and Western Europe.  Some examples are: the 1999 tour that took them to Puerto Rico, Cuyahoga Falls, and Columbus, Ohio, followed by a tour to Prague, Vienna, and Budapest in 2001.   In 2002, they were invited to play in Park City, Utah, during the 2002 Olympic Games and in June 2003, they toured Australia.

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