Every day at noon the sounds of bells sweep over the cardinal and gold tulips, over the great green lawns and past the swans on Lake LaVerne. The entire campus comes alive with the rhythm of the bells. The melody draws you in closer until you’re at the heart of campus. There, in a beautiful sea of green, stands the 110-foot campanile, home of the Edgar W. and Margaret MacDonald Stanton Memorial Carillon.
Who is the person behind the keyboard, creating one of the many great traditions Iowa State is known for? It’s the Cownie Professor of Music (university carillonneur), Tin-Shi Tam, a native of Hong Kong who came to the United States to continue her study of organ performance and church music.
In 1994, she was recruited by Iowa State to become only its fifth carillonneur in the campanile’s 112-year history. Although initially unaware of the significant role the carillon bells played in the life of the university, she soon discovered the passion students had for the bells that kept them on time for classes, tolled for campus celebrations, and provided noontime concerts.
Tam has started a tradition of her own. Every Friday, she plays special requests from students. They’ve really put her skills to the test, having her play everything from Lady Gaga to Incubus. Which gives the students in her concert hall a one-of-a-kind experience.