Mastering the original campus chimes

Syracuse University students continue the more than century-old tradition of ringing Crouse College's bells.

Two to three times a day, some Syracuse University students climb a 70-foot ladder to play songs ranging from SU’s fight song to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” for the rest of campus to hear.

They are members of the Chimemasters, a group of mostly music majors, who ring Crouse College’s bells that are more than a century old.

“It’s not quite as mysterious as you think,” Michael Carr said, a sophomore music composition major who rings the chimes occasionally. “It’s not some creepy old guy up there with nothing better to do. It’s a bunch of students wanting to have fun with something that’s really part of SU’s tradition.”

Photo: Rebecca Shabad

John Crouse bought the ten bells made in 1889 by the Clinton Bell Company in Troy, N.Y. They cost $5,000 and each weigh between 375 and 3,000 pounds.

For more than 50 years after the 10 bells were installed, members of the Greek fraternity Delta Kappa Episilon known as DKE, were in charge of ringing them. Members of its sister sorority Alpha Phi then took over for three years while the DKE brothers served in World War II. Now, anyone can be a chimemaster.

“If you have a fear of heights, that’s fine,” said junior Pauline Lombardo, the head chimemaster and music composition major. “But you should probably conquer it sooner rather than later.”

It also helps if you can read music, but Lombardo said anyone could improvise, too.

A sheet-music book full of classic, folk and contemporary songs sits in the wooden chiming station. From “Singin’ in the Rain” to “Scarborough Fair” to “Don’t Stop Believin’,” Chimemasters decide which they’d like people outside to hear.

The chimes, which are rung at 8:15 a.m., around noon and 5:45 p.m, are similar to an instrument known as a carillon.

“I think people sort of imagine that we’re playing bells, running around smashing bells,” said senior Samantha Lifson, a dual advertising and women’s studies major. “People don’t realize that you can’t even see the bells from where you’re playing from. It’s this whole intricate pulley system.”

Chimemasters have special keys to access the bell tower, within which is the ladder leading up to the chiming station. Above that, they can enter the level where the bells are—and a beautiful view of Syracuse. Above that is the roof of Crouse, which is now locked to students.

Signatures dating back to the beginning of the 20th century line the bell tower, including some from DKE and Alpha Phi members. Supposedly, Dick Clark, who was a DKE brother, has his name up there.

Visitors can sign a guestbook on the chiming station level; the earliest date back to the early 1990s.

Lifson said, “There’s no other place on campus that has such raw history.”

You can follow the Chimemasters on Twitter @Chimemasters.

Thanks for your feedback


We appreciate the input, and after talking with the chimemasters have clarified that reference within the article. Have a great summer!


Technically, the Crouse Chime

Technically, the Crouse Chime is not a carillon. It does not have enough notes to be classified as a carillon - it is just a chime.

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