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 Tuesday, August 26, 2008 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Student Perspective: Students ring in tradition
by Joanna Nasar, graduate student, Environmental Journalism

Students, faculty and staff can hear the harmonic chime of the Macky Auditorium bells while walking to class and work. The bells have an automated chime five minutes before every hour between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., but during special occasions such as commencement and the holiday festival, a student plays selections including hymns or the CU alma mater on the chimes. The tradition of playing the choral is an integral part of campus life that music students are actively involved in.

For 58 years the sound of the carillon has rung out across CU-Boulder’s campus. The university received the carillon as a gift from the class of 1953. Originally it was located in the UMC and moved to Macky in 1983, where it is still housed today. In 1996, the carillon was upgraded to include an automated list of songs from “Silent Night” to “Old Man River.” Sometimes a song will play before the automated bell tolls.

“Years ago Everett Hilty, head of the CU organ program, used to play the carillon,” said Angela Venturo, assistant director of Macky Auditorium. “He handed down the tradition to our music students.” In 1995, Hilty was awarded the University Medal for his service. The carillon is named in his honor and the tradition of playing it during special occasions is still a special privilege for students.

Maggie Fries, a recent CU-Boulder graduate with a bachelor’s degree in arts and music, played the carillon during special occasions. She was approached by a student in one of her studio music classes, who asked if she would be interested in playing because of her experience on the piano. Fries, who was also involved with the women’s music fraternity to the collegiate choral choir, took the job. “I thought it would be a good opportunity to do something completely different from piano,” she said. “I grew up in Boulder and had always heard the bells. I thought it would be neat to be a part of that.” She immediately began practicing because the instrument is different from the piano.

The carillon is much smaller than a piano and must be played at a slower pace because of the deep amplification heard all around campus. It is kept in a music classroom in Macky under lock and key. Many students probably have class there and don’t even know the carillon is in their room, Fries said.

During the holiday festival, Nicole London, a voice performance major who graduated last May helped to fill the campus with holiday music. “It kind of fell into my lap,” she said of the opportunity. She was a little nervous because it is such a loud instrument. “I have never played anything that loud before; you can hear it all over campus.” During the holiday festival, London chose music that complimented the offerings of the concert series.

This year, graduates Fries and London are looking to pass the job to another dedicated music student. It is their hope that the next student will take the job just as seriously – Fries even played before her own graduation. “I played for a half hour and then came down into the quad,” Fries said. “The bells are a big part of campus life, and it’s a wonderful tradition to carry on.”

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