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October 25, 2001
Vol. 28, No. 12



The politics of interpreting Islam

UT scholars: World events challenge journalism ethics

Archer Fellows serve in Washington, D.C.

ExxonMobil gives $158,500

UT staffer gives $700,00 for scholarships

UT team seeks to save Ukraine historic site

Inaugural D. Harrington Symposium Nov. 2

Longhorn Halloween Oct. 28

Dr. Laura Flawn dies in collision

UT's bell ringer making music for nearly 50 years

Professor Jaime Delgado dies

UT grad students empowered in wake of Sept. 11 tragedy

UT researchers discover wood pulp replacement

UT engineers unlock defense body's protectve systems

New process detects cancer's ability to spread

Dr. Wood leads team in $80 million quake study

Undergrad biomedical engineering program created

FACTS brochures available

Faculty Council

News Briefs


Hearts of TX Campaign ends Oct. 31

UT book de-mystifies directing


"" ""

From Tower perch, university's bell ringer makes music for nearly half a century

By Nancy Neff

There are many University of Texas at Austin employees who work behind the scenes, but no one fits the description quite like Tom Anderson. He has made a second career out of being heard but not seen.

A retired assistant director at the university's International Office, Anderson has played the 56-bell carillon at the top of the Tower off and on since the 1950s. His music — ranging from the Texas Fight song to Bach's Minuet No. 1 — floats from the Tower to the far reaches of campus. The concerts begin at 12:50 p.m. and continue until 1 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Anderson and Humphrey practicing
File photo
Tom Anderson has played Friday duets on the Tower bells with Chris Humphrey, administrative associate in biomedical engineering, since 1989. He and Humphrey are shown practicing on a keyboard in a room on the eighth floor of the Main Building, before going to the belfry room.

International folk songs are his special interest, but Anderson also chooses whatever is appropriate for the season, weather or current events around the university. On Sept. 12, he repeatedly tolled the bells and played Chopin's Funeral March in memory of those people killed and missing in the terrorist attack.

"Many people hear the music and think it's just a tape," said Anderson. "They don't even know I'm up there."

Getting to his "playing cabin," as he calls it, is no small task. Anderson takes the Tower elevator to the 27th floor and then makes his way through several locked doors and up numerous narrow steps that wind inside the building and behind the massive clock face.
"Back when I was a student, I used to run up these stairs," said the 78-year-old Anderson. "Now I have to take them a little slower, but it keeps me in shape.

"As long as I can make those steps, I want to continue playing," he said.

He plays the carillon with his hands and feet. Each handle and foot pedal pulls a cable that is attached to the clapper inside each bell. Anderson sometimes plays duets with Chris Humphrey, an administrative associate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. This adds to the number of bells that can be played.

On occasion, Anderson takes requests that can be turned in at the visitor's desk on the first floor of the Main Building. Preparations for some requests often require listening to a recording of the music several times and writing out the score by hand.

"A lot of foreign students will ask me to play songs from their country on their independence day," said Anderson. "When Anwar Sadat was killed, some Egyptian students asked me to play Egyptian songs on the day of his funeral," he added. And when President Lyndon Johnson died, Anderson played a number of Texas songs and hymns that his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, had requested.

Following in his brother's footsteps, Anderson began playing the carillon as a graduate student while attending the university from 1952 to 1956. He received a bachelor's degree in sacred music and a master's degree in music education.

The original 17-bell chime was installed when the Tower was built in 1936. Janet Yantis, a high school student and daughter of then university construction inspector H.C. Yantis, was the first to play the original carillon. The first tune was, appropriately, The Eyes of Texas.

New bells and equipment were purchased in 1987 through a bequest by the late Hedwig Thusnelda Kniker of San Antonio. Now with its 56-bell system, the full concert Kniker Carillon is the state's largest carillon in tonnage and number of bells. Anderson was thrilled with the installation of the new bells. He at last could play the carillon repertoire — music covering four octaves — which was too complex for the Tower's old equipment.

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