The donated carillon plays significant role in Keene State’s history
Every day as students rush to get to their classes as they walk down Appian Way throughout the day, distinctive melodies can be heard across the Keene State College campus. But where exactly do these well-known melodies come from?
From The Beatles to recognizable show tunes, or even just basic melodies, everyone who enters the campus can hear the carillon ring to life.
Part of KSC’s history has been the carillon—and songs such as “Here Comes the Sun,” by The Beatles chiming to life in the bell tower.
The carillon is housed in a bell tower on the roof of the Mason Library. A carillon contains at least 23 cast bronze shaped bells that all play a melody sequentially. These bells chime together to create those melodies all of us have heard. The carillon is played through striking a keyboard where the keys automatically trigger levers and wires that connect to metal clappers that beat the inside of the bells.
However, not many students are familiar with the carillon’s significant history. “I actually heard it the other day and thought it was nice,” senior Ashlee Wansick said. “Since when did they start playing music?” Wansick asked.
Another senior, Amy Derick, was also unconscious of the carillon and “[doesn’t] even hear them anymore.” Derick said she would rather have the carillon ding bells than play the “obnoxious” melodies it does now.
These melodies are played throughout the course of the day; however, the carillon didn’t always play the infamous melodies we have grown accustomed to.
Before 1995, the carillon was unreliable and known to fall apart. It wasn’t until August 10, 1996 that a brand new automated carillon was donated by former Keene State College President Stanley Yarosewick and his wife Mary-Lou. Yarosewick was President of KSC for 11 years, from the fall of 1994 to spring of 2005.
The carillon was given in memory of Mary-Lou’s parents, Rosemary George Spain and Matthew Samuel Spain.
“My wife’s mother was ill and living in Florida and we moved her up to Keene and she was only here a month before she passed away, which is a shame, but then my wife always enjoyed sitting on the porch at the President’s residence and hearing the carillon,” Yarosewick said.
But for Mary-Lou the carillon was more than a generous donation to the school.
“It was very nice,” Mary-Lou said. “I loved it because when I would be outside or out on the porch when I heard it I would think of my parents.” Today, you can find a plaque at the Mason Library symbolizing the Yarosewick’s donation of the carillon.
Although it goes unnoticed by many students, the carillon is an important part of KSC history and is meant to be enjoyed by all.
“There’s only certain kinds of music you can get that play on a carillon,” the Dean of the Mason Library, Irene Herold, said. “But they tried really hard to get a variety of music and to also incorporate some diversity in the music.”
According to Herold, the music’s selection and the purchases are all coordinated through the President’s office.
“We must have ordered probably a dozen set of melodies that you could play. We wanted to pick something that would be appropriate at different times of the year,” Yarosewick said.
“They had a catalog of melodies. You could get different melodies, you could have a disk of different kinds of marches, and they even had Christmas music,” Yarosewick said.
However, the carillon is not only used to play beautiful melodies; the carillon can also be used as an emergency alert system and play at times of remembrance, for example, on September 11, the carillon played at 8:46 a.m.
Despite one’s preference in the types of melodies that are played, the bells have a special place in KSC history; without the bells chiming to life, walking down Appian Way wouldn’t be the same.
“I recall walking on campus on the cold winter nights and I would hear a melody around 6 p.m. and it just lifted my spirits,” Yarosewick said.
Alison Lamell can be contacted at