Beginning next fall, a new class will offer a select group of students the chance to learn the bells and whistles of the chiming instrument housed within Storke Tower.
Music 24, a private weekly instruction course, will provide three UCSB students with the opportunity to master the bells of Storke Tower. Led by Margo Halsted, a renowned carillonneur and visiting associate professor, the course will teach students to play the 61-bell carillon and allow them to showcase their talent at a recital held at the end of each quarter.
According to Halsted, the keyboard-style instrument is comparable to a large piano, but with one significant difference – the carillon is played at a much higher altitude.
“It is just exhilarating to use your whole body to play,” Halsted said. “It’s just a big piano, a wonderful piano in the sky.”
Halsted, a professor emerita of the University of Michigan and a former carillonneur at Stanford University and the University of California, Riverside, currently teaches Carillon Composition in the College of Creative Studies.
Gregory Courville, a first-year physics major currently in the composition course, said Halsted is an apt and experienced instructor.
“She’s very competent,” Courville said. “She knows what she’s doing and has clearly been doing it for a long time.”
With the new class offering, Halsted said she plans to expose three dedicated students to the instrument – one of only five in the state – each quarter.
“I hope to have three wonderful students who will love the carillon and will enjoy playing for the campus,” Halsted said.
Halsted said she sees the creation of the new course as a way to make the instrument more prominent in the lives of UCSB students and faculty.
“I think the Storke Tower carillon is a symbol of the university,” Halsted said. “Almost all universities use these instruments as an emblem of the campus. … We have to get used to [hearing the music] and this in turn will make people want to hear it. Starting next year, I want to play [the instrument] as much as possible so people can try to remember the music as part of their university time here.”
The 175-foot tall campanile was dedicated in 1969. Its bells weigh between 13 and 4,793 pounds. Every hour at 10 minutes to the hour, the bells chime the UC motto “Let There Be Light.” On the hour, “Westminster Quarters” emanates from the tower.