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This month, students at the Primary School began the 30th year of the handbell program. Long-time Primary School music teacher Jane Smith started the “Brookside Bellringers” in 1989 when she moved from teaching at the Middle School to the Primary School and wanted to help the young musicians sing heartily, read music, count time, perform on a musical instrument, and participate in an ensemble. While this program for our youngest students has enjoyed great longevity, bell-ringing is one of MKA’s most enduring and unique traditions.
 

Jane Smith leading the Bellringers at the 1998 Gathering. 

 
The original “Kimberley Bells” were purchased in England in 1937 by The Kimberley School (TKS) music teachers, Miss Bauer and Miss Carpenter. The first group of students learned to ring them in 1938, and while no formal group was created, the bells were available to students and being a bell-ringer was seen as a very special role. Mrs. Smith’s Brookside Bellringers used these original bells from 1989 until 2007 when they started to disintegrate. New handbells and choirchimes were gradually introduced beginning in 2005, which allowed whole grade levels to play together.
 

1937 TKS students showcasing the original Kimberley Bells. (MKA Archives, Tom Ruddy)

The Bellringers have performed at MKA for All-School Gatherings, investitures of new Heads of School, Primary School concerts, assemblies at the Middle and Upper School, and Primary School Closing Exercises. The group has also performed off campus at Senior Care, the Short Hills Mall, Van Vleck House & Gardens, The Pleasantdale Chateau, The Manor, and the Highlawn Pavilion.
 

Bellringers rehearsing for their 2018 Homecoming performance.

 
The handbells have been an important and engaging tool to foster a love of music and learn technique at TKS and eventually MKA for over 80 years. We look forward to many more years of music and joy from the bells of the Brookside Bellringers!
 
Current 3rd graders playing "You Can Count on Me" by Bruno Mars.