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November 24, 2023

The Joys of Public Performance

By Karen Nelson, Youth Services Librarian

If you break out into a cold sweat at the thought of doing much of anything in front of a crowd, you’re definitely not alone! My childhood self would be right there with you, stammering her way through required class presentations and sweating any time I had to get up on a stage.

And yet, now, I stand in front of dozens of children and their grown-ups each week, reading books, singing songs, and dancing around – sometimes with more enthusiasm than the kids themselves!

If that weren’t enough to stress out past Karen, I also perform in musical concerts as part of the handbell choir Circle City Ringers. Bells aren’t like a band or orchestral performance where each part is usually played by at least a couple people. If you’ve never seen handbells played, here’s how my director often describes it:

Imagine you have an enormous piano large enough that a dozen people can fit in front of it. Each person is responsible for playing two or more of the white keys, as well as any adjacent black keys. If they want to play a piece together, they have to make sure they are matching tempo (speed) and dynamics (volume) with each other and that there’s no duplicate keys – if you miss your note, it just won’t be there!

In both cases, all my mistakes are on full display for the audience to hear. There are no do-overs in live performance!

So, what changed for me? Why is public performance now a source of enjoyment rather than dread?

It’s because of community.

There’s the community of librarians – both my coworkers here and those who work elsewhere – that share program ideas and resources so we can continue to develop and refine our craft.

There’s the community of children, who come each week and develop their language and motor skills while having fun, and their guardians, who can sneak in some adult conversation while their kids are distracted.

There’s the community of my fellow ringers, who – though we vary in age, profession, and background – come together as a team to turn “just ink on a page” into a listening experience that can be enjoyed by anyone.

And, there’s the community of our audiences, many of whom have built new annual traditions around our concerts and show their appreciation with both refreshments and good conversations.

Do I still get a little nervous when going before the public? Sure. But, when relationships have been built on both sides of the stage and when everyone involved is there to enjoy themselves, I can’t help but share my love of both books and bells with enthusiasm.

If you have little ones, I hope I (or one of our other fantastic librarians) will see you at a Storytime someday!

And, if you have not had the pleasure of hearing Circle City Ringers before, I would like to extend a special invitation to you to attend our concert at the Fishers Library this year and hear “Bells Like You’ve Never Heard Them Before!”

Circle City Ringers Holiday Concert

The Circle City Ringers are an auditioned bronze-level community handbell ensemble. The musicians will be playing seasonal music on their traditional English handbells and hand chimes. It’s the perfect music to ring in the season! The HEPL Music Series is sponsored by the Friends of the Library. All ages welcome. Registration is recommended.

December 9th | 2 PM | Fishers Library

Information about handbells:
An Introduction to Handbell Ringing
Fun Facts about Handbells


Storytime at HEPL is geared toward older toddlers through preschoolers and their caregivers. Sing, play, and listen to stories together! No registration required.

Tuesdays, 9:30 am & 10:30 am – Fishers Library
Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10:30 am – Noblesville Library

Some of Miss Karen’s favorite Storytime books: