By Kate Blankinship
University Carillonneur Joey Brink is not the only musician behind the University Bells. Simone Browne, a fourth-year public policy major, is one of twenty student carillonneurs.
Browne remembers first seeing the 100-ton, 72-bell instrument as a prospective student during a tour of Rockefeller Chapel. As part of the tour, former University Carillonneur Wylie Crawford played a few notes that resonated with Browne, a lifelong musician herself.
Two years later, Browne learned that she, too, could play the bells. Each fall, there is an audition process for students who want to join the carillon studio. During a six week-period, new students learn how to play the carillon from Brink and current studio members, prepare an audition piece, and then play the piece on the Rockefeller Carillon on audition day.
“It’s unlike any instrument that I’ve ever played before; it’s very physical,” Browne said, going on to explain that she uses both hands and feet to play.
But Browne likes the challenge of learning new arrangements and having a reprieve from academic work. Plus, she said, it’s a great excuse to travel. “Since the instrument doesn’t move, you have to go to it,” she said.
With her carillon experience, Browne got an internship in Luray, a small town in Virginia, where she played on the local carillon and designed programming to spread interest in the instrument.
“The carillon community is very tiny and close-knit,” Browne said. Browne benefited firsthand from this close-knit community when Brink reached out to his carillonneur friend in Amsterdam on her behalf, leading to Browne taking a detour on her way to study abroad in order to play the very carillon Anne Frank once heard.
Though she’s traveled many miles to play carillons throughout the world, Rockefeller Carillon continues to be her favorite.
“You can really hear the bells all around you, and you just feel like you are part of this gigantic sound,” Browne said.