The bells of Iowa State began as a love story. Which is why many of its traditions sprang up, centered on love and romance. The carillon within the Campanile was donated to the university by Edgar W. Stanton, member of Iowa State’s first graduating class in 1872. Throughout his tenure at Iowa State, he served in many positions, including acting president on four different occasions.
When Stanton’s wife, Margaret MacDonald Stanton, died in 1895, he decided to create a monument in her honor. With the help of then-ISU President William M. Beardshear, Stanton selected a site for a clock tower with a 10-bell chime. The tower was designed by George E. Hallett, an architect from Des Moines, and the bells were added in memory of Margaret.
The Campanile has many traditions and legends attached to it, according to the University Archives:
“An ISU woman is not a ‘true coed’ until she has been kissed under the Campanile at the stroke of midnight. After the kiss, she must anonymously drop jelly beans outside each girl’s door in her house. Any senior who hasn’t achieved coed status before graduation must drop lemon drops. This legend lives on during ‘Mass Campaniling’ at Homecoming or during the Friday night of Senior Week.”
In 1969, the chimes were expanded to 26 bells, and the playing console was added in memory of the death of Edgar Stanton. The carillon then became known as the Edgar W. and Margaret MacDonald Stanton Memorial Carillon.
Over the years, more bells were added and multiple renovations took place until it was finished in 1994 with 50 bells total.
“The maintenance of the Campanile costs about $2,000 a year. The service includes the clock, the mechanics, the console and the bells.”
Iowa State has had five official university carillonneurs and with Tin-Shi Tam acting as our current player.
“I began my tenure at Iowa State as Crownie Professor of Music [the official title of the university carillonneur] in 1994,” Tam said.
Tam, a native of Hong Kong, is the university carillonneur and the chairwoman of the keyboard division. She is a carillonneur member of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America and a fellow of the Trinity College of Music, London.
She holds a doctorate of musical arts in organ from the University of Michigan.
“Carillon lessons are offered to ISU students who are interested,” Tam said. “It requires previous keyboard experience. One half-hour lesson weekly for one credit [Music 118E]. Auditions are required.”
Tam has given recitals throughout Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe and the United States:
“The most fascinating aspect about the carillon,” Tam said, “is that every instrument is different. One should appreciate each instrument as it is.”
The summer carillon concert series was started in 2001 and has been hosted every few years, sponsored by the Stanton Memorial Carillon Foundation. The first concert of this series was May 29, and Elizabeth Graves-Vitu of the Cathedrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, in Perpignan, France, was the first guest carillonneur of the summer.
“I was a senior in high school,” Graves-Vitu said of the first time she gained interest in playing the carillon. “I was involved in a lot of intense study programs, and the carillon seemed like a great opportunity to better myself.”
Graves-Vitu studied the carillon with Charles Chapman in Luray, Va., for nine years. She then went to Hollins University, which created a music degree, with a carillon option, for her. After receiving her diploma, with honors, she then studied with Jacques Lannoy at the Ecole Francaise de Carillon in Douai, France.
She was named carillonneur of the Perpignan Cathedral in 2006.
“I have played in many places,” Graves-Vitu said. “Ireland, England, the United States and France, to name a few. I also teach many lessons in France.”