Culver City Chamber Orchestra logo

Artist bio

Ron Thiele

Ron ThieleRon began his teaching career at Chester W. Nimitz Middle School in Huntington Park, California in the fall of 1994. Supported by the Nimitz school administrators, and most recently, by the administrators and staff of Mark Twain Middle School where he currently teaches English handbells, Ron has proven that music can make a difference. His music classes consisted of English handbells, concert choir and keyboards. Nimitz was the only school in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s central area with classes in English Handbells. Generally used in churches, the English handbell is relatively unknown to the general public, and certainly to the middle school environment. Ron has been ringing handbells since he was a very young boy—more than 47 years—and he loves the spiritual and uplifting sound they make. Supported by the Nimitz school administrators, Ron set out to prove that music can make a difference in the academic life of his students. Not only was ringing a way to make beautiful music, but Ron knew that music theory accompanied by hands-on music-making, would help in the areas of math, musicianship, concentration and focus, self-esteem, and discipline. Over the years and up until the present, his students have born out these facts through self-improvement in their grades, the way they look at themselves and others, and with their musical accomplishments.

English handbells are one of Ron’s passions, and the students feel it, wanting to become a part of his musical magic. While at Nimitz Middle School, he had one of the largest youth handbell choirs in the United States. It consisted of over 260 young ringers. He also had an advanced choir made up of veteran Nimitz ringers called the City of Bell Ringers. These two groups performed together at many venues up until 2001. Now he concentrates all his energy in turning out spectacular ringers at Mark Twain Middle School. His ringers at Mark Twain already number more than 180 students.

At Mark Twain Middle School, Ron has established English Handbell classes as part of the curriculum. Beginning handbell classes are made up of students with little or no musical knowledge. However, from the first class, his students are able to play their first piece of music. After that, it’s history. His first handbell classes were from Chester W. Nimitz Middle School in Huntington Park, California, and, in their tradition, Ron continues to create musical history with his current ringers from Mark Twain Middle School in the Mar Vista neighborhood in West Los Angeles, CA. All of his students, both past and present, have steadily progressed in their musicianship and, as a result of hard work, have caught the attention of many event sponsors during their various performances. These contacts have led them to play in many exciting venues such as, the Hollywood Bowl, performing with the Los Angeles Concert Orchestra, the Hollywood Master Chorale, many local holiday parades, Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, and Disneyland. One of the highlights of their performing career was that, in both 1999 and 2006, these ringers were chosen from many groups from all over the country to perform at Epcot Center in Disney World in Orlando, Florida. They were chosen based on their musicianship, appearance, and uniqueness.

Through Ron’s love for his craft and children, and his phenomenal teaching methods, he was able to turn the tables on youth attendance to the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers (AGEHR) regional conventions.Using Motivation, Management, and Musicianship (the three “M’s:) as the tool for preparing his choirs, he was able to bring his first youthful choir up to the adult skill level. The Nimitz Ringers along with the City of Bell Ringers, were the first youth group to be accepted into the adult workshops and performances. Ron had raised their skill level far above that of the simple workshops and music levels traditionally assigned to young ringers. As a result, these choirs have attended three major conferences since 1998, and were highlighted as entertainment for the rest of the convention participants. For the last three years they have participated in, and been featured as entertainment for, the annual AGEHR’s, Area XII, 12th Night English Handbell Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ron was a clinician for the Region XII American Guild of Handbell Ringers (AGEHR) convention in Reno, Nevada, in June of 2002.

Ron also has managed various, talented troupes of dancers. These dancers also sprang from the Nimitz music department. Originally, Ron had two choir classes—beginning and advanced. A few of the older choir members wanted to incorporate dance into the class curriculum. The choir soon gave way to two classes of dance. The advanced dance and the beginning dance classes were full of enthusiastic students who choreographed the dances he took to other schools, Disneyland, Disney World, and many other Southern California venues. These young people took contemporary music, Disney music, and Latin music, and, with Ron directing and refining the dance moves, incorporated them into yearly revues and adaptations of many familiar musicals. Some adaptations included, Oliver, Disney’s Tarzan, Grease Revue, Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, and You Got Action! Revue—a Latin dance and English handbell extravaganza. Many of the Nimitz Dancers and Mark Twain Dancers, as well, are comprised of English Handbell ringers. By being both a dancer and ringer, these students were able to show their versatility in their musical abilities and talents. Under Ron’s tutelage in middle school, a few of his students went on to perform professionally, and many perform in stage productions in high school.

Ron grew up in Chicago, Illinois, where he graduated from high school in 1970. He married his high school

sweetheart, Cathy, and they have raised two wonderful children together. Kelly is the oldest, 29 years old, and follows in her father’s footsteps as an accomplished musician and is a talented coloratura soprano. She has her Master’s degree in music at California State University at Long Beach, and is now living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sean, age 22, is also an accomplished handbell ringer and athlete who is currently studying at Santa Monica Community College. Ron received his Bachelor’s Degree in Science from Redlands University. He continues to take methods classes, which add to his already impressive resume of teaching skills, acquired through his experiences with middle school students. Along with his music and ESL classes, he is also the music department Director of the Academy of the Performing Arts, and mentor teacher at Mark Twain Middle School. Cathy is a successful businesswoman in the West Los Angeles area, and, along with Ron, is a very active member in their church in Santa Monica.

Ron has passed his example of success on to his students and young performers. He shows them the importance of an education and encourages them to keep their sights on college. He constantly encourages his students to do their best in school, and monitors their progress academically as they pass through his classes and on to high school. Once again, using the three “M’s”, he teaches his after school ringers and dancers how to be the best they can be.