‘Bells of Iowa State’ concert to honor historical buildings, carillonneur


Kelby Wingert/Iowa State Daily

Cownie Professor of Music Tin-Shi Tam will be honored for her 25th anniversary as university carillonneur at the “Bells of Iowa State” Anniversary Gala Concert.

Lydia Wede

Two iconic structures on Iowa State’s campus will be recognized in concert this weekend.

The “Bells of Iowa State” Anniversary Gala Concert celebrates the 120th anniversary of the Stanton Memorial Carillon and the 50th anniversary of Stephens Auditorium. 

Also honored will be the 25th anniversary of the university carillonneur, Tin-Shi Tam, the 65th anniversary of the Stanton Memorial Carillon Foundation and the 50th anniversary of the Ames International Orchestra Festival Association (AIOFA). 

This concert will feature performances from campus groups, including the Iowa State Singers and Alumni Choir, the Iowa State University Symphony Orchestra and the Iowa State University Wind Ensemble.

Inside the beloved campanile hangs a series of 50 bells. These bells make up a musical instrument called a carillon. Not just anybody can climb up the narrow staircase to the top of the campanile and play these several hundred-pound bells. The talented individuals who can are called carillonneurs. 

Iowa State’s fifth university carillonneur is Cownie Professor of Music Tin-Shi Tam. She was born in Hong Kong but has traveled all over the world — furthering her education and performing carillon recitals — even though she prefers to play our own Stanton Memorial Carillon. 

“It’s a fantastic, fun career,” Tam said.”[Carillonneurs] have to travel to different places. You don’t know what to expect until you visit.”

Tam is also a member of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America and a fellow of Trinity College of Music. She also released a CD titled “The Bells of Iowa State” in 2004. 

“[Playing the carillon] intrigues my creative side,” Tam said.

She will celebrate her 25th anniversary as a staff member of Iowa State and perform alongside a live orchestra at the “Bells of Iowa State” Anniversary Gala Concert. 

The bells of Iowa State were donated by an alumni named Edgar W. Stanton, who was within Iowa State’s first graduating class of 1872. Edgar W. Stanton remained an active part of Iowa State’s campus by teaching, becoming the head of the department of mathematics and acting as president on four different occasions.

He eventually married Margaret McDonald Stanton, Iowa State’s first Dean of Women. Upon his wife’s death in 1895, Edgar W. Stanton decided to create a lasting impact on Iowa State’s campus and donated the funding for 10 bells. At the time of his death in 1929, Edgar W. Stanton left funds for a playing console and an additional 26 bells. The Stanton Memorial Foundation was created in 1954 to provide restoration to the carillon as well as fund any improvements. The foundation donated the remaining bells in 1956 and 1967. 

Stephens Auditorium is another monumental aspect of Iowa State University. It was built in 1969. In 2004, it was considered by the American Institute of Architects as the “building of the century” among 300 other structures. Stephens is not only an architectural award-winner, but also a popular place to host concerts, plays and other performances for the Ames community.

Because of the influential nature of the upcoming anniversaries, the performance pieces for the concert are just as historically relevant. Many selections from the first-ever show performed in Stephens Auditorium will be played.

There is also a piece that has been previously performed between the carillon and the orchestra that will be recreated, with the addition of modern technological upgrades. To complement these nostalgic tunes, a carillon and orchestra musical piece has been commissioned to celebrate new milestones. 

“We want to have everyone help us celebrate this milestone,” Tam said.

The “Bells of Iowa State” Anniversary Gala Concert will be at 3 p.m. Sunday in Stephens Auditorium. Doors will open at 2:15 p.m. There will be a limited quantity of free student tickets with the presentation of an ISU ID Card.

Adults can purchase a ticket for $25 or reserve a seat for $50. To purchase a general admission or reserved seating ticket, visit the Iowa State Center ticket office or call (800)745-3000. Tickets are also available online at ticketmaster.com.