The grand total of bells in the Campanile is now 56, meaning the Guild of Carillonneurs can play a wider variety of music during their weekly carillon concerts at noon on Fridays.
The grand total of bells in the Campanile is now 56, meaning the Guild of Carillonneurs can play a wider variety of music during their weekly carillon concerts at noon on Fridays.

Carillon carries on

First carillon concert post-renovation brings bells back to life

When Senior Emily Clouser finds herself at the top of one of UNI’s most iconic structures, hitting what look like oversized wooden piano keys with her fists and creating music that can be heard almost all throughout campus, she describes the feeling as, “terrifying and also an honor.”

That feeling came back to her on Friday, as campus was once again alive with the chimes of the Campanile during the first Lunchtime Carillon Concert since the icon’s historic renovation.

The campus feels alive and it feels like people are back here now, back in the full swing of things

— Will Krueger, sophomore

Part of the $250 million Our Tomorrow campaign, the $2.2 million Campanile improvements project began last October. The bells were removed to be refurbished by the Verdin Company in Cincinnati, Ohio. They returned to campus on May 1, along with nine new bells that bring the total to 56.

With all of the changes implemented, the Guild of Carillonneurs — the students who play the carillon instrument at the top of the tower — can expand their repertoire and have a fuller playing experience.

Clouser, president of the Guild of Carillonneurs, remembers the days of playing with fewer bells. In her previous three years in the organization, some of their music selections would include notes lower than the lowest bell in the carillon. She can recall her peers playing descending runs and instead of a final booming low note, hearing only silence.

“You could just kind of feel everyone was so sad because they were like ‘that would’ve made it so much better,’” she said.

Following the re-installation of the bells after nearly six months of silence, the guild had a fuller range as well as a unique opportunity to help tune the new bells.

“We’d play for like 15-20 minutes, and then we had Tim Verdin, the president of the bell company, up there with us, and we’d stop and we’d be like ‘ok this bell need to be louder, this one needs to be softer, this handle is too heavy, this one is too light,” Clouser said.

“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Usually they’ll have professional carillonneurs come out, so it’s kind of cool that a group of students got to be the ones to tune the bells, but it’s nice because we’re the ones that are going to be playing them every week,” she said.


On Friday, Clouser and fellow carillonneur Gale Lesemann took to the tower to play crowd favorites for their hour-long concert. Selections included John Lennon’s “Imagine,” John Legend’s “All of Me,” George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” and “Hedwig’s Theme” from Harry Potter. Spectators can also submit song requests for future concerts using a link on the Guild of Carillonneurs’ website.

Aside from the new bells, the Campanile received a number of safety upgrades. In the past, an 84-stair spiral staircase took people to a platform near the top. Then, a metal ship ladder led the final stretch to the playing cabin, where the carillonneurs make the music happen.

Now, the players can take a 98-stair spiral staircase all the way to the top. A new electric hatch into the playing cabin was also installed, replacing a wooden cover that the carillonneurs had to lift themselves while balanced on the ship ladder. Now, they can open the door with the turn of a key.

The clock mechanism is also now completely electronic, meaning that maintenance staff no longer have to climb the tower and manually change the clock for daylight savings time.

“It’s still chiming the actual bell, but the actual clock mechanisms are all on electronics,” Clouser said.

She also shared a helpful piece of information for students who used to rely on the hourly chime of the Campanile to signal that they needed to hurry to class: while the bells used to chime two minutes before the hour, now they ring about 45 seconds behind.

With all of the ways their playing has been enhanced, it’s no secret that Clouser and the Guild appreciate the renovations to the Campanile from one hundred feet up in the air. On the ground, the feelings are similar.

A group of friends gathered by the base of the Campanile on Friday, both to enjoy the music and to support their friends putting on the show from up above.

“It makes campus seem alive, it was so quiet when all the bells were gone,” Junior Caitlyn Conlee said.

“The campus feels alive and it feels like people are back here now, back in the full swing of things,” Sophomore Will Krueger added.


The Carillonneurs plan to put on lunchtime concerts every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. this fall, and plan to do more themed concerts. Auditions to be a part of the organization are also happening Sept. 6-9, and more information can be found on their website at

Despite the fears of everyone on campus hearing you hit a wrong note, for Clouser, the honor that comes with the position outshines that.

“It’s so cool because you know that you’re literally a part of campus history and you’re creating a memory for either an alumni or a current student, and that’s something that they’re going to come back to campus and they’re going to tell their kids or their grandkids,” she said. “Or when there’s tours going on … and they hear the bells, that could be the reason they choose UNI.”

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    The Verdin CompanyAug 31, 2023 at 4:19 pm

    Happy to see that the student carilloneurs are enjoying the Grand Carillon. What an honor, as well, to have been chosen to upgrade the carillon. We loved the work and being on campus!