‘Best job on campus’: Lynnette Geary serves, teaches as university carillonneur

Lynnette Geary has served as university carillonneur since 2006 and teaches students, including Dr. Paul Hagelstein, the instrument. Kassidy Tsikitas | Photo Editor

By Caleb Wheeler | Staff Writer

Students walking past Pat Neff Hall can often hear its bells filling the air with music, but what most don’t know is it may be their very own professor playing them.

The McLane Carillon is one of roughly 200 carillons in the country. Built in France and dedicated in 1988, the 48-bell carillon weighs more than 22 tons. The instrument is a piano-shaped series of batons that connect to strikers inside of bells.

Lynnette Geary has operated the instrument since 1996 and has served as university carillonneur since 2006. In addition to playing the instrument, Geary has two students. One of them, Dr. Paul Hagelstein, is not only a student of the carillon but also a professor of mathematics.

Hagelstein has been a member of the Waco Community Band since 2003. For the past two years, rather than taking a piano course like he usually does, Hagelstein signed up for carillon lessons, and he has been playing the instrument ever since.

“I think we’re extremely fortunate that the McLane family donated a very nice set of carillons here,” Hagelstein said. “We’re really blessed to have this kind of instrument on campus. Not many universities have that, especially a carillon that you can physically play the batons. It’s not some sort of recording of bells going out of the bell tower.”

Hagelstein also plays the carillon at his church, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church.

“I generally play at St. Alban’s twice a month,” Hagelstein said. “I got to play Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, which was fun as well. … Musically, I think it’s quite interesting, because the carillon literature was something that I was completely unexposed to.”

Hagelstein said he sees his own mathematical work in the art of the carillon. By working in harmonic analysis, he said similar wave functions can be seen between his work and the instrument.

“If you look at the wave equation for a bell, you’re looking at a surface that part of it has a positive curvature, part has a negative curvature,” Hagelstein said. “It’s very different. Mathematically, it’s very hard to treat. Actually, very little really good work had been done on it. … I find that to be very interesting.”

Hagelstein said Baylor is fortunate to have a carillonneur who is also a member of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America.

“We can play every carillon piece on [the McLane Carillon],” Geary said. “You have some that are bigger, some that are smaller. Some are transposed; this one’s concert pitch.”

Geary said the repertoire of music includes Baylor classics like the fight song, musical classics like Bach and Beethoven and jazz classics like Duke Ellington. All of the music is available to her and her students to play at any point.

“You can play very formal music or just more what I call audience-friendly music, and when I program a recital, I try to mix it up,” Geary said.

Geary said the first song to be played on the McLane Carillon was the Doxology.

“It’s the best job on campus,” Geary said. “It’s the best job in the world. It really is.”

Caleb Wheeler is a freshman University Scholar from Tulsa, Oklahoma. My concentrations are in journalism and professional writing with a minor in legal reasoning. In my first year with the Lariat I am excited to experience what it is like to work for a professional publication and further my writing abilities. After graduation I hope to attend Baylor Law School.