Engineering students pitch in to repair practice carillon


The ethereal tones of the Hopeman Carillon, which provide a unique acoustic signature for the University of Rochester campus, are created only after students first learn to how create them on a practice carillon in Spurrier Hall.

Hence the significance of a project now underway in the fabrication shop of Rettner Hall.

Two Hajim School mechanical engineering students have volunteered to replace one of three broken hammers on the practice carillon -- and create some spares as well -- as part of their final projects in EAS 141, an introductory course on basic machine tools. 

edwin tan There are no commercially available replacements for the custom-made hammers.

“If it helps students play the carillon better, then I’m glad to help out, because I love the sound it makes,” said Loudon Blake ’17.

“I just wanted to do something that would help people out, that will actually be used,” added Ben Martell ’19.

And that is music to the ears of Jimmy Warlick, the River Campus music department’s manager of musical performance programs. He was hoping to find a shop on campus that could not only help replace the hammers, but provide a learning experience for students at the same time.

  Jim Alkins, the Senior Laboratory Engineer who teaches EAS 141, was happy to oblige. Students in his class have the option of fabricating something for their own use as a final project. However, he also encourages them to ask their professors if they can make something that, for example, might be used in a lab. “It gives them the additional experience of going out and dealing with a customer,” Alkins noted.

“We’ve made parts for the Institute of Optics, and for the Baja and Solar Splash teams,” he added. The only charge is for any materials that have to be ordered special to complete a project.

  Increasing numbers of students have taken an interest in learning to play the carillon in recent years, notes their Music Department instructor, carillonist Doris Aman, who also coordinates the University’s Carillon Society.

    This spring there are 13 beginning students – from such diverse majors as optics, physics, music, history and mechanical engineering – who are using the practice carillon on a daily basis as part of Aman’s MUR 104 class and a course offered through the Eastman Community Music School. The total number of students using the practice carillon, however, will likely be at least double that. Students who have already completed the classes are encouraged to continue practicing throughout their remaining years on campus, whenever their schedules allow.

  Warlick has also approached the University machine shop in Taylor Hall to produce replacement hammers. Students are still able to use the practice carillon in the meantime, but they won’t be able to hit the highest notes until the broken hammers are replaced.

   The practice carillon was provided with the original Hopeman Carillon purchase in 1973, Aman noted. “Nearly all its parts should be considered custom made and at least 40 years old,” she said.

   Aman’s students participate as much as possible in maintaining and repairing the practice carillon, under her supervision. However, she added, “a hammer breaking is beyond our expertise, so we passed the broken hammers to the machine shop.”


Ben Martell uses the LeBlonde lathe in the Fabrication Shop to machine his replacement hammer. (Photo by J. Adam Fenster/University of Rochester.)