Kettle quartet has more than a ring to it

Volunteer bell-ringers attract donors to 35 Salvation Army Red Kettle standsaround Rochester, but one kettle offers a special attraction this Saturday.

A quartet of clarinetistswill perform from noon to 1 p.m. at the kettle outside TJ Maxx, 1300 Salem Road SW.

"We don't track the almost 2,000 volunteers who ring and perform each year, but we know that singing or music attracts more interest, and we find more dollarsentrusted to kettles at these venues," said Dave Ferber, director of community engagement and development for the Salvation Army.

The quartet consists of Vince Brickley, Deana Carr, Colleen Faganand Eric Straubmuller, musicians who come from widely different walks of life to serve a common purpose.

Brickley is a research pharmacist at the Mayo Clinic. Carr is operations coordinator for Riverside Concerts. Fagan is a lab tech at Mayo Clinic, and Straubmiller is a box office assistant at Rochester Civic Theatre. They met playing in the Rochester Community Band.


They formed their quartet in 2011, specifically to play during the bell-ringing season.

"Since high school, I have always wanted to get a group together to play during the Christmas season," Fagan said. "I finally met these goofballs, so I asked if they were interested, and they said yes." In past years, the group has played at Hy-Vee Barlow Plaza.

Straubmiller often plays lead.

"I like playing with small groups," he said. "And the arrangements of the music are nice."

Brickley added, "I love to see the smiles on little kids' faces."

"Many people stop to listen — and talk — they tell us what instrument they used to play," Carr said. "They almost always give something."

This year's Red Kettle goal is $1.075 million, Ferber said. In addition to the 35 volunteer-staffed Red Kettle stands, there are another 36 unstaffed "Counter Kettles."

A requisite for the clarinet group is a healthy dose of laughter and fun. Traditionally, they wear "ugly Christmas sweaters" when they perform.


"One year, I didn't have one, so Colleen brought me a woman's cardigan to wear," Brickley joked.

According to Ferber, "Each hour that a ringing individual or group spends at the kettle can mean hot meals, emergency housing, medical and dental care, caregiver respite and education and much more. We cannot thank these tireless volunteers enough for their service, for it makes our job a little easier as Rochester changes and new challenges arise."

The holiday spirit is built around helping others and creating camaraderie, and it's not too late to be part of this spirit because the Salvation Army fundraising campaign continues until the last day of December.

The clarinet quartet seems to embody the best of the holiday spirit. As Carr puts it, "It's fun to get together, fun to play the clarinet, and great to encourage people to give to the Salvation Army."

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