My Musical Story
My Surprise With Handbells
I have studied organ and piano for many years in hopes to become a performing musician. Neither one ever worked out as I was never able to obtain the level needed after all those years trying. Yet during this time, I was doing all these neat things with bell choirs thinking it was just a hobby thing until the big surprise came. Performing musician on solo bells.
I enjoy performing in different venues as each one has its own special vibe and atmosphere. The audiences vary greatly from a church setting, to a nursing home, to a concert performance. No matter which type of group I am performing with, it is the smiles I see beaming back to me which makes it worth it. I don't know what is happening in the life of each person in front of me, but when that smile glows, I know that I helped bring some joy for that person, in that moment. That is worth more than any salary on the face of the earth. I touched a soul with music.
Here is my musical story from start to bells!
Brian A. Tricoli has resided in Hawthorne, NJ since the age of 2. Around the age of 7 he taught himself how to read music and play his mother's spinet organ. While going through school, Brian learned to play the trumpet, mellophone, French Horn and self-taught himself some basic piano. He joined the high school marching band in his 7th grade year and went on to become the school's first male drum major in his junior year. After graduating, Brian went to Montclair State in NJ for 2 years for business administration before transferring to West Chester University of PA as a music education major. His principal instrument was French horn until he began studying pipe organ with Dr. Gordon Turk. It was while away at school where Brian first heard the heavenly sounds of a handbell choir performing Christmas music in a mall and became intrigued by the instrument.
Handbell Choirs Led to Solo Ringing
Upon his return to his hometown in 1993, Brian was connected with Richard E. Frey, music director at Ridgewood United Methodist Church for organ lessons. In 1994 Mr. Frey invited Brian to ring bells with the church group, The Rainbow Ringers, where he rang bass bells for many years. The group performed in the area, recorded 2 CDs and recorded background music on one of Celine Dion's Christmas albums. While ringing with this group, Brian also became involved with another group at that church, The Youth Ringers, directed by Christine L. Braden. Brian helped this group with behind the scenes things, substitute ringing and with their summer tours. Brian toured with this group which performed in every state east of the Mississippi River except for two.
With a change in church staff, both bell groups eventually ended. After some thought and planning Brian along with Christine Braden established an auditioned community handbell group. In 2003 they started Jersey Jubilation Handbell Choir with the hopes of becoming an advanced level bell choir. The group is currently directed by Mrs. Braden with Brian as a ringing Business Manager. The group is now ringing 5 octaves of Whitechapel bells at levels 4 and 5 and gaining a reputation in the area for its beautiful handbell performances. During the early years when the group was short ringers, Brian rang 2 bell positions in order to keep 5 octaves of bells ringing. By doing this, Brian unknowingly was learning some of the skills of solo ringing to be used in the future.
In January 2012, after many years of desiring to reach a higher level, Brian picked up his new solo set of 37 Schulmerich handbells in PA and headed back home to begin learning the art of solo handbell ringing. After nearly 18 years of ringing with Whitechapel bass bells, Brian set to task to not only learn to ring using Schulmerich bells, but to also learn the treble bell techniques such as Shelly and four-in-hand ringing, two techniques relatively unused by bass ringers. After 4 months of intense rehearsals and bell ringing exercises, Brian made his solo handbell debut during the Jersey Jubilation spring concert in May of 2012 in front of a crowd of nearly 200 and accompanied by Gary Grimes. After performing two bell pieces which included bell tree, mallets, four-in hand and six-in-hand techniques, Brian received a standing ovation from the amazed audience, most who had never heard a solo handbell performance. Brian has since performed in other local churches with more booked in the near future. Brian continues to perform at various places and events, often accompanied by his friend, and piano accompanist, Karen Schmidt.
Brian is always working to refine many of the various techniques and skills required in solo bell performance. He is always gearing up for the next upcoming holiday season while learning additional pieces to expand his repertoire. In addition to the solo handbell work, Brian continues to ring with Jersey Jubilation Handbell Choir as well as the Westminsters, a church bell choir at West Side Presbyterian Church in Ridgewood, NJ under the direction of Debbi Holden-Holloway. Brian enjoys ringing along with others in ensemble ringing to continue to make beautiful music with other talented handbell musicians. He is looking forward to experiencing the interesting adventures bell performance will provide and the people he will meet in the process.
When not ringing bells, Brian enjoys doing various things as well. He has a day job employed in security for a local law enforcement agency. Brian also loves spending time with nieces and nephews making them laugh and teaching them new things. Other interests include riding his motorcycle and photography. In the past Brian has volunteered for many years for Hawthorne Ambulance reaching the rank of Assistant Chief. Brian has been a certified EMT since 1994 and still assists people in need at his workplace. Brian is also a member of The Handbell Musicians of America and the American Guild of Organists. Retiring in 2016 after over 15 years, Brian had also been the webmaster and newsletter editor for the Northern NJ Chapter AGO. He has also studied piano with Robert Dellavalle, a friend and exceptional pianist.
Brian hopes to be able to touch as many peoples' lives as he can though the heavenly sounds of handbells. Whether it is during a church service, a nursing home performance, or even just with friends, if the sounds of these handbells lift the spirits of anyone who needs it, then his goal has been met.
After a very busy Christmas season in 2014, Brian was able to expand his musical collection of bells. In February 2015, Brian took delivery of an additional 3 octaves of Cymbells from the Malmark bell foundry. These 39 bells are mounted on metal racks and are rung using mallets allowing for additional musical effects and techniques. With a total collection of 76 bells, Brian has more bronze bells to work with in order to bring different musical sounds to the audiences.