Hockanum Valley Ringers

* Denotes Charter Member

Lawrence A. Berdensey
Lawrence A. Berdensey is currently the Band Director at West Side Middle School, in Groton, CT. He has taught band for the Groton Public Schools since 1985, where he has served as an elementary school band director before being appointed to Fitch Middle School in 1991. His bands have won superior ratings at adjudication festivals. His symphonic band is often invited to perform at the Naval Submarine Base, in Groton, for special occasions and events. Lawrence is the recipient of the 2020-21 West Side Middle School teacher of the year.

Lawrence has been directing handbells since 2004 and was the former director of handbells at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, in Gales Ferry, CT. His music ministry included two youth ensembles, an adult choir, as well as, an adult and teen quartet. Lawrence is a bronze level ringer, who formerly rang with the Shoreline Ringers, a community based handbell ensemble in Southeastern, Connecticut. In January 2012, Lawrence became the director of the Hockanum Valley Ringers, a five octave community handbell ensemble based in Vernon, CT. Lawrence has been a clinician throughout New England. He has taught classes at the Area 1 Festival Conferences, the Directors Seminar, Spring Rings, and the Fall Skills Building Workshops. Lawrence has been a guest conductor at the CT, NH, MA, and Maine Spring Rings, and the Family Handbell Camp. During his spare time, when he takes a break from teaching and directing, Lawrence enjoys traveling, hiking, and creating gourmet meals with his three daughters.

Lawrence holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Music Education from the University of Connecticut (Storrs) and a Masters of Science degree in Education from Southern Connecticut State University. Professional memberships include the National Association for Music Educators, Handbell Musicians of America, Groton Education Association, Connecticut Educators Association, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Learning Disabilities Association, and the NAACP. Lawrence resides in Gales Ferry.

Katy Barno
Katy by day is an average teenager, but when night falls she becomes The Ringer, a crime-fighting handbell player. She has played with HVR for four seasons and is the youngest member of the group. Katy is very musically talented. She has played bells for 5 years in addition to 8 years on the clarinet. This fall she is entering her sophomore year of college. In her spare time, Katy loves to read books, listen to music and mess around with friends.

Lisa Bielesz, President
Lisa began ringing handbells in 2001 at Saint Mary’s Church in Newington, CT, and joined the Hockanum Valley Ringers in January, 2012. Lisa has been the president of HVR since August, 2012, and she manages the promotion and publicity of the handbell concerts each season. Lisa worked as a childcare provider in her home for 18 years, and currently works as a preschool paraprofessional for the Manchester Public School System. In her spare time, Lisa enjoys attending musical and theatrical performances, planning and going on vacations, and spending time with family and friends.

James Burr
New to HVR, James has been a church organist for twenty-six years, first in Andover and currently at First Congregational Church of Vernon where he also conducts their bell choir. He sings bass with the Vernon Choral and has previously sung and played harpsichord and recorders with the Uconn early music ensemble, Storrs Collegium Musicum. His early music interests have also been enriched by many years attendance at the Amherst Early Music summer festivals. Other interests range from electronics to literature.

Peggy Zakowicz*
Peggy is from Manchester, CT. She has been ringing bells since she was 13 years old as a member of several different choirs, trios, duets, and solo performances. Peggy currently works for an insurance software company. She loves to learn new instruments and has been involved in music most of her life. Her favorite hobby is making music with friends.

Suzanne Neafus
Suzanne lives in Rocky Hill, CT. She started playing handbells as a teen with her former church in Long Island, NY. Since moving to Connecticut 15 years ago, she has played with a number of bell choirs, including the New England Ringers. She currently rings with the Wethersfield United Methodist Church, in Wethersfield CT. Suzanne works as a business analyst. She lives with her husband and an adorable cat.  She is currently serves as Connecticut State chair for Area 1  – Handbell Musicians of America

David Rauscher
David has lived in Manchester his entire life. He is free-spirited, talkative, and not to mention, a bit off his rocker. He has recently started attending Manchester Community College for general studies. David has played piano for eleven years, bass clarinet for ten, and several more instruments that he learned during his spare time, most notably, the bassoon and tuba. Unlike many of his peers, he has found a love for ringing handbells. David officially joined HVR in February of 2012 and enjoys ringing the “buckets.”
Marissa Shanbaum
Marissa joined HVR in the fall of 2007. She began ringing bells at Emmanuel Lutheran Church when she was in high school and has rung on and off ever since. In her time with HVR she has played a variety of bells spanning the highest and lowest notes. When she’s not playing bells, she enjoys knitting, crocheting, and even winding tangled yarn into a fresh ball.

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