Brian Seemann is in his first year with Virginia Bronze. He is also the handbell director at Our Savior’s Way Lutheran Church in Ashburn, an assistant handbell instructor at The Potomac School, McLean, and in his second year as music director for the New England Ringers. From 2013 to 2017, he was the artistic director and conductor of the Philadelphia Handbell Ensemble.
In his time away from handbells, Brian is heavily involved in other aspects of performing arts. He works part-time for Design Foundry, an event design and scenic company, for whom he helps run events such as the Cherry Blossom Festival and the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade. Brian spent four summers marching with the Jersey Surf and Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps, and is currently on staff for the McLean High School Marching Band.
Brian began ringing in grade school with the youth handbell choir at Whitehouse United Methodist Church in Readington, New Jersey. He studied composition at The Boston Conservatory before returning to Philadelphia and majoring in urban planning at Temple University. Brian lives in Leesburg, VA.
Katie Budris: (Assistant Treasurer) Has been a musician for over 30 years. In addition to ringing handbells, she enjoys singing and playing the flute. Katie is a dog lover and lives in Arlington, VA.
Shellie Byrum: Shellie began playing handbells in the 7th grade at her church in NC, and had an illustrious run as a piccolo player throughout her college marching band years. She lives in Arlington, VA.
Chris Dvorak: Chris started ringing handbells with his church, Blessed Sacrament, in 2011, with no prior musical background. He just loved the way it sounded and it looked like a lot of fun. After attending a Virginia Bronze concert in 2013, it just enhanced his desire to learn faster. He joined Virginia Bronze in 2014 as a roady, and has worked his way up to being a full ringing member in 2017. In addition to handbells, Chris enjoys golf, tennis and is a high school basketball referee.
Genevieve (Geebee) Hanson:
Nick Hanson: Nick received a BA degree from Concordia University, Irvine, CA, as a major in music with concentration in handbells. He is in his twelfth year at the Potomac School in McLean, Virginia, teaching instrumental music to 5th – 12th grade students in four handbell ensembles, and teaching private handbell lessons. He is also in his tenth year as the handbell director at Bush Hill Presbyterian Church in Alexandria.
Kelley La Croix: Kelley has played handbells for twelve years. She is an aspiring violin and cello player. She has an undergraduate degree in Horticulture and a master’s degree in public service and administration.
Mike Mandigo: Mike has been ringing for nearly 25 years. He has directed groups for children and youth at Ox Hill Baptist Church. He is a retired technology instructional coach for Fairfax County Public Schools. In his spare time he builds wood decorative boxes.
Kathy Murphy: Born and raised in Northern Virginia, Kathy started ringing handbells at the age of 10, under the direction of Fran Underwood (who just so happens to be a fellow ringer in VAB!). She has an M.Ed. from Marymount University and works as a special education teacher at an elementary school in Fairfax County.
Alan Payne: (Vice President) Alan is a northern Virginia native with a general affection for music of all types. He starting ringing handbells with Fairfax United Methodist Church (FUMC) in 2011 when helping as the Director’s assistant for the Youth Handbell Choir. Soon thereafter he joined the Adult Handbell choir at FUMC and has been ringing with them ever since. Alan typically plays in the lower bass section (big bells), but occasionally moves over to cover percussion as the opportunities arise.
Gillian Penn: Gillian is a native Washingtonian and has been ringing handbells for over 25 years. While she has a BA in Anthropology from Mary Washington College, she spends her days running her husband’s lawn care business in Fairfax, VA. She and her husband James have two daughters, three cats and four diesel trucks.
Alice Real: Alice has been ringing for over 13 years and also plays piano. In college, she played harpsichord and recorder with the William & Mary Early Music Ensemble. Alice has a bachelor’s degree in history and music and a masters in early elementary education. She is an elementary general music teacher with Fairfax County Public Schools.
Kristen Reck: (Treasurer) Kristen started playing handbells with her Mom when she was 13. She also plays piano, sings in her church choir, and practices Irish dance. Kristen is currently pursuing her PhD in Environmental Science at George Mason University.
Judy Sondheimer: Judy, age 74, is the oldest ringer in Virginia Bronze and joined the organization in year 2 of its existence. In Denver Colorado, where she lived for 22 years, she was Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology at the Children’s Hospital of Denver and a ringer in the Timberline Handbell Ensemble. She was Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology at Georgetown University until her retirement in 2014. She is a docent at the US National Arboretum and at the US Botanic Garden and a volunteer retailer at the Christ Child Opportunity Shop in Washington DC. She and her husband Henry (a major groupie of VAB) have 2 grown children and 4 grandchildren.
Fran Underwood: (President) Fran has been ringing bells for over 25 years. She holds a master’s degree of Music/Church Music from Shenandoah University, teaches handbells at Wakefield School in The Plains, VA and is Associate Director of Worship Arts at Clarendon United Methodist Church in Arlington, VA.
Jen Gorfine: (Intern) Jen hails from New York City where, as a Hewitt School 6th grader, she learned to play (and love) bells. Now a web developer and resident of Old Town Alexandria, she excitedly makes her return to ringing after a decade-long hiatus. When she isn’t working or rehearsing, Jen can be found with her nose in a science-fiction novel.