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Winter 2007: An Interview with Jennifer A. Cauhorn
An Interview with Jennifer A. Cauhorn
The New Executive Director of The American Guild of English Handbell Ringers (AGEHR)
On October 16, Jenny Cauhorn assumed her role as the new Executive Director of AGEHR. In this brief interview, we’ll find out a little about her background, goals, and what she sees as the future of the Guild and handbell ringing.
What is your handbell background? What are some of your challenges and successes with handbells?
I began ringing handbells in 1989. I was an Arts Management Intern at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center in Tulsa, OK. I moved there from Cincinnati right out of college and didn’t know anyone in town. One of my co-workers, knowing of my music background (I have a Bachelor of Music in Flute), asked me to come to her church handbell rehearsal as a sub. I agreed, thinking it would be a great way for me to meet new people. I immediately fell in love with ringing and soon became a permanent member of the Asbury Ringers at Asbury United Methodist Church in Tulsa. Other than one year when I moved back to Cincinnati from Dallas, I’ve been ringing or directing ever since.
Challenges: (1) My first experience ringing advanced music in the Tulsa Festival Ringers (I was one of the founding members). We formed the group so we could attend a national festival and prepared the William Tell Overture as a solo piece to perform at the festival. I had never played anything like that before on handbells – it was a fantastic experience. (2) Making the transition from Ringer to Director. I made a couple of unsuccessful attempts early in my ringing career.
As someone with a music degree, I was always tapped to assume this role when a director left. Those early attempts were made before I understood the instrument well enough and before I was mature enough musically to do it right. My third time has been much more successful. I found the right church with the right group - Greenhills Community Church Presbyterian in Cincinnati. I’ve been their director for 8 years and plan to continue for years to come.
Successes: (1) Being asked to audition and then becoming a member of the Dallas Handbell Ensemble under the direction of David Davidson – the most rewarding musical experience of my life. (2) The above mentioned third-attempt at becoming a director. It’s been extremely gratifying to see this choir grow and improve and know I had something to do with that.
What exactly is the role of Executive Director?
As Executive Director, I am the chief executive of this corporation and as such am responsible for the management of all operations of the Guild. The board has provided me with goals they would like to see the organization fulfill and it is my responsibility to help AGEHR meet those goals.
What are your goals, both for your new position and for AGEHR as an organization?
Only two months into my new position, these goals are changing on a regular basis. Overall, my long term goals are to see AGEHR grow in membership through introducing new audiences to handbells. I would like to bring a level of respect to handbell ringing and recognition for the amazing instrument it is from others in the music community and beyond. Short term, my personal goals are to strengthen the relationships from Area to Area and between the Areas and the National Office. Our members are our greatest resource, and only through open and honest communication and exchange of ideas will we become stronger and better.
What skills will help you succeed in your new position?
My experience in handbells as a ringer and director will be very helpful in allowing me to understand the perspective and challenges of our members. In addition, my 18-year career in arts and entertainment has given me experience in event planning, marketing, sponsorship, fundraising, budgeting and finance, contract negotiation and office management. I have worked in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors, for both large conglomerates and small businesses, and in a variety of office settings. I have experience with small arts organizations, professional sports, venue management, concert promotion and large event production. I have learned to adapt to new situations and welcome any opportunity to learn new things.
What will be your greatest challenge as Executive Director?
I believe it will be the goal I mention above – establishing better communication. In this day and age we are all pulled in so many directions with so many demands on our time that sometimes it is challenging to keep up with all the contacts and responsibilities demanded by a volunteer position such as Area leadership. Our Area boards and volunteers give so much of their time already, and I will be asking them to give just a little more. I believe the results we achieve will, in the long run, make their jobs easier and more rewarding.
What does the future hold for AGEHR?
AGEHR should be the leader in the handbell community – not just in the United States, but around the world. We need to work with the handbell industry, composers, publishers, members and experts to offer new materials, new innovations, new music, new techniques to improve the way we teach, mentor, perform and inspire.
Finally, I am very honored to have been chosen for this position and look forward to many years of success with AGEHR.