Marquette University Carillon

What Is a Carillon?

A carillon is a musical instrument composed of at least 23 carillon bells, arranged in chromatic sequence, so tuned as to produce concordant harmony when many bells are sounded together. It is played from a keyboard that allows expression through variation of touch. The keys are struck with the half-closed hand. In addition, the larger bells are connected to foot pedals.

The 15th century Flemish bell founders discovered the process of accurately tuning bells. The art of making carillon bells almost died out by the 19th century. It is only in the 20th century that carillon bell founding was revived and has surpassed the quality and tuning of 15th century bells. The world's greatest concentration of carillons is still in the Low Countries of Europe (Belgium, the Netherlands, northern France and northwest Germany). The art of the carillon has spread worldwide, however, with instruments on every continent except Antarctica. Nearly 200 exist in North America.

Carillon Music

The carillon evolved as a folk instrument, played automatically as a clock chime and by a performer for market days and holidays. Surviving music from the first "golden age" is mostly arrangements of folk tunes, dance pieces and popular music of the period, although there are some original compositions for carillon.

Like piano music, carillon music is written on two staves: music on the treble, or upper, staff is played with the hands, while that on the bass, or bottom, staff is played with the feet. Early in this century, the ability to arrange music from other sources and to improvise on the carillon was a necessary skill for the carillonneur. The growth of the carillon art in modern times has resulted in a rich repertoire with a wide variety of regional styles.

students in the carillon guild at MarquetteCarillon Course

Students who are interested in learning more about the carillon can take the Carillon Discovery Course for credit at Marquette. The students in this photo are part of the Carillon Guild, a group of students at Marquette who have a strong interest in this instrument. If you're interested in joining this group, contact Dr. Konewko for more information.

MU Carillon

The Marquette University Carillon is at the top of the Marquette Hall tower. It comprises 48 bells and can be heard every Wednesday at noon. If you are interested in having a tour of the carillon or learning to play it, contact the carillonneur, Dr. Mark Konewko, at (414) 288-3789.


Although the tower that houses the Marquette University instrument was constructed in 1923, designed to house a carillon, it remained empty until 1967. In that year, the installation of a 48-bell Paccard carillon was made possible by Mrs. John C. Dwan, who was a member of the Board of Regents for Marquette and Chair of the John C. Dwan Educational Foundation of Duluth, Minnesota.

Princeton University Carillonneur Arthur Bigelow was hired to design this Paccard instrument, and the original keyboard was built to his specifications. After Bigelow’s death in February 1967, Justin Kramer, an engineer from Los Angeles, was brought in as consultant for the project. Lowell Smith played for the dedication on Oct. 29, 1967.

 MU Carillon Facts

  • Bellfounder: Paccard (1967)
  • Number of Bells: 48
  • Largest Bell: C (5,000 pounds) connected to C on the keyboard
  • Original Keyboard: Paccard (1967)
  • Practice Keyboard: Paccard (1967)
  • New Keyboard: Meeks and Watson (2006)
  • New Practice Keyboard: Meeks and Watson (2008)
  • Transmission System: transmission bars
  • Carillonneurs: William J. Geisheker (1967–1998) Mark Konewko (1999–Present)