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Tower Chimer Fills Air With Varied Tunes

Is it raining on your parade? Well, if you hear “Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head” chiming from the Tower – you're not going crazy.

“I play different music for various occasions,” said UT bell chimer Thomas Anderson. “Like Tuesday was the first day of spring, so I'll play spring songs.”

Anderson, also assistant director of the International Office, ahs been playing assorted musical tunes Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 12:50 p.m. to 1p.m. for approximately 16 years.

The 17 bells chime when a clapper strikes the bell while Anderson plays an electric keyboard. The bells range in size from largest being approximately four feet tall and weighing two tons – to the smallest measuring about one and a half feet in diameter and weighing 200 pounds.

“It's not like the Hunchback of Notre Dame or anything,” said Anderson, adding only half of the keys on the electric keyboard are used because there are only 17 bells.

Anderson said Wednesday he stopped playing the bells manually in the early 1970s when the Tower was closed to prevent people from committing suicide. During the early `70s, four people committed suicide by jumping off the Tower.

Anderson plays a wide variety of music. On Ludwig van Beethoven's birthday, Anderson plays one of the composers' songs, on Mexico's Independence Day. Mexican folk music fills the air and he sometimes plays “Happy Birthday to You” from a boyfriend to his girl.

He also chimed Egypt's national anthem in honor of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's funeral.

“People will call me and request a song and will call me later to tell me they really enjoyed it,” Anderson said. “Sometimes somebody will call and say `you lifted my spirits today.'

“I've been playing since I was a little boy,” said Anderson, who received his master's degree in music from the University and then began working at the International Office.

Anderson suggested that anyone who would like to hear a particular tune make their request to the information booth in the Main Building.

“I found out it was Bach's birthday today, “ Anderson said. He then began humming along to one of Bach's best songs as he played the chiming music and shared it with University students throughout the campus.

Daily Texan. March 22, 1984.
Article by: Kelly Isaacks

Tom Anderson plays the chimes on the third floor of the UT Tower. Anderson plays Wednesday afternoon like he has done for 16 years.

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3 May 1999
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