As a part of our initiative called Curious Cornhuskers, an anonymous reader asked The Daily Nebraskan, “Who is operating and choosing the songs for the Mueller tower aka the bell tower? When does it usually ring?”
On a normal afternoon, the bells of Mueller Tower fill the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s City Campus, perhaps to the tune of “Dear Old Nebraska U” or “Hedwig’s Theme” from “Harry Potter.”
The 84-foot tower dates back to 1949, when 1898 graduate Ralph Mueller donated it. The tower had carillon bells that could be operated by a keyboard or another automated mechanism, and was modern for its time.
Today it still rings strong under the service of the Building Systems Maintenance department in Facilities Maintenance and Operations. In the fall of 2015, after being inoperative for a semester, the department replaced the sound system with a Schulmerich g5 Electronic Carillon and installed eight new speakers.
The current system can hold 750 songs and is controlled remotely for easier operation. Director of Building Systems Maintenance Chris Walsh said the previous carillon’s location in the tower required the structure to have HVAC equipment. Since the new carillon is now in Morrill Hall, BSM no longer has to maintain the equipment, which has been taken out.
The sound system also allows for a keyboard to be plugged in, so if someone wanted to, they could play a song through the speakers directly from the keyboard.
Walsh said the system currently contains a playlist of more than 50 songs known as the Chancellor’s Playlist. He said the list includes all of the tower’s original songs and the newly- added “Hedwig’s Theme.”
The old system could only play songs on one preprogrammed routine. It aligned with the Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule, but not with Tuesday-Thursday’s.
The newer programming options allow for three different schedules: Monday-Wednesday-Friday, Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday-Sunday.
Walsh said Westminster Toll chimes on the hour from noon to 10 p.m. every day.
He said on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, a random selection from the Chancellor’s Playlist plays at 23 minutes after the hour, from 9:23 a.m. to 5:23 p.m., to coincide with the class schedule.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he said the tower also coincides with the class schedule, but a random selection plays every hour and a half from 9:18 a.m. to 4:48 p.m.
Walsh said the bells, which have been to said to carry sound up to 15 miles, enhance the campus experience for students, faculty and visitors.
“Mueller Tower is an historical landmark for the university and creates campus character and a sense of place,” Walsh said. “The tower supports the student experience, fostering lifelong connections between students and their alma mater.”