Alex Johnson has recently been appointed the seventh University Carillonist. An alumnus of the University of Rochester (Physics ’19) and the Royal Carillon School ‘Jef Denyn’, Alex has taught carillon at the University of Texas and the University of Rochester. Alex’s capacity for pushing the boundaries of musical expression on a weighty, sometimes unwieldy percussive instrument is garnering a growing chorus of praise. In 2021, The Diapason magazine named him one of their 20 Under 30, twenty leaders under the age of thirty for his contribution to carillon performance and composition. He is one of two musicians from the USA (Joey Brink being the other) to have taken First Prize at the International Queen Fabiola Carillon Competition in Belgium. There he also received First Prize for improvisation and the Prize for Best Performance of a Belgian Contemporary Work.
Joey Brink served as the sixth University carillonist at the University of Chicago. He began his carillon studies at Yale University in 2007 with Ellen Dickinson, and became a Carillonists member of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America in 2011. Joey serves on the GCNA board, co-chairs the Johan Franco composition committee, and is the recipient of the 2015 Barnes scholarship for affordable practice carillon design.
Joey continued his carillon studies on a Belgian-American Educational Foundation fellowship with Eddy Marien, Koen Cosaert, and Geert D’hollander at the Royal Carillon School in Mechelen, Belgium, where he graduated with greatest distinction in 2012, and subsequently studied further with Geert D’hollander at Bok Tower Gardens in 2015. Joey received first prize and audience prize at the 7th International Queen Fabiola Carillon Competition—the preeminent competition of the carillon world—in Mechelen in June 2014. He is also a distinguished young composer of carillon music, and is working with composition students in the Department of Music, under Augusta Read Thomas, on the New Works for Carillon project. Read more about about Joey’s appointment. If you are curious to hear Joey’s carillon compositions or would like buy his album on iTunes, visit the iTunes online store.
Wylie Crawford, fifth University carillonist, retired in 2015, and has been named senior University carillonist in honor of his service of 42 years in the Rockefeller tower. He remains resident carillonist for the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, IL. Here’s a delightful interview with him in the Chicago Maroon!
We have a lively carillon studio of students who are learning to play the bells. If you’re interested in learning to play the carillon, come to a tower tour/carillon recital to find out more! To become part of the Rockefeller carillon studio, you must be enrolled full time in a degree-granting program at the University of Chicago, with three or more years to go in your degree program, and you must be able to read both treble and bass clefs. You can come for an initial lesson or two without obligation, and then you can get more involved and audition for a place in the studio. As a member of the studio, you get ongoing lessons, practice time at the keyboard on the lower level of the Chapel, and regular access to the bells. In return, you become an ambassador for the bells, and you assist with tower tours and carillon recitals once a week. It’s fun!