School of Music will oversee Altgeld Chime Tower

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The Daily Illini file photo

A view of the chime in the Altgeld Hall Tower. The chime was installed in the tower in 1920 as a gift from the classes of 1914 through 1921 and the U.S. School of Military Aeronautics.

By Luke Cooper, Staff Writer

As repairs continue within the Altgeld Chime Tower, the chimes player’s program has been preparing for the tower’s indefinite reopening.

Associate Provost for Capital Planning Matthew Tomaszewski announced the creation of an official leadership position within Altgeld chimes musical program in an email sent to chimes players this summer.

The position will be based within the College of Fine and Applied Arts and will report specifically to the School of Music.

Though the position’s title has not yet been declared, the role will oversee the same duties of the program’s former chimesmasters such as providing musical oversight, playing the chimes and overseeing the weekly performance schedules and recruitment of chimes players.  

School of Music Ph.D student and longtime chimes player, Jonathon Smith, will be the first to take on the position when the Chime Tower eventually reopens.

“When I heard that they (University officials) were going to do this,” said Smith. “I was glad to know that they were interested in keeping the program running. It shows that the higher-ups within the school are concerned with keeping the chimes going.”

Smith’s position is the first of its kind in a program which has been solely volunteer-led since the tower’s bells were installed in 1920.

“I’m excited to be apart of this – and I hope the other chimes players are too,” he said. “This is sort of a transition for the Bell Tower and it’s kind of an historic thing because this has never happened.”

For many chimes players, the closure of the tower in March for repairs endangered the future of the chimes program; the program was particularly at risk after the discontinuation of public tours of the tower, a common initiator in recruiting chimes players. 

The tower’s indefinite closure led chimes players to wonder how long it would be closed, how many of its current players would be around when it reopened and the degree to which the University was concerned with the chimes program.

Consequently, Smith said he intends to act as a liaison between the School of Music and the chimes players in hopes to increase transparency and communication between the University and the program.

“I see him (Dr. Jeffrey Magee, School of Music Director) a lot,” he said. “We have conversations frequently, so if there’s a group concern or individual concern, I can just speak to him and he can go through the proper channels to help us when needed.”

Prior to Smith taking on the role, chimes player and senior in LAS, Cody Jones, said that chimes players were initially worried about having someone unfamiliar with the program to oversee it

“We felt the chimes kind of had a unique tradition,” said Jones. “It’s not as though someone within the school wouldn’t do the job properly, it’s just that the program would lose some of those traditions.”

The University has not stated to chimes players when the Chime Tower is expected to reopen, though Smith and other chimes players said that the tower’s repair progress suggests that it could be as soon as spring semester 2018.

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