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Aug. 31, 2022

Faculty voice: Creating community with Beaumont Tower’s carillon

Jonathan Lehrer has joined the College of Music faculty as the new university carillonist. He is a laureate of many international competitions for carillon, most notably the Queen Fabiola International Carillon Competition, where he also earned the SABAM prize for the best interpretation of Flemish carillon music. He has performed numerous concert tours spanning Europe and North America and has been a frequent guest artist at the annual North American Carillon Congresses. His first official performance at MSU was Aug. 10 during the annual Muelder Summer Carillon Series. The following voice was adapted from an article previously written in February 2022 on the College of Music website.

Jonathan Lehrer in New York City at Riverside Church.
Jonathan Lehrer in New York City at Riverside Church. Courtesy photo.

My interest in the carillon began when I was an undergraduate student at Yale.

Initially it was the tower that sparked my curiosity, but the music soon followed. One great thing about the carillon — or terrible thing, depending on who you ask — is you end up performing publicly quite regularly. This accelerated my musical development because it encouraged me to go the extra mile in my practice and preparation and do more musically than I perhaps would have if I were just playing for myself in my living room.

After years spending time learning from the best, renowned carillonists Eddy Marien, Geert D'Hollander, and Koen Cosaert, I graduated from the Royal Carillon School “Jef Denyn” in Belgium — the first and largest carillon school in the world.

For the last 10 years I have been living in Vancouver. Vancouver has no carillon, so I've had to travel frequently to perform. MSU will be my first university appointment, and I am looking forward to walking to the carillon instead of flying to one!

I was attracted to the opportunity to contribute to art and place-making in a large and vibrant community like MSU's. I have served some great communities but none at this scale before, and I think that opens up many possibilities. The instrument is a big draw, too. It's such a beautiful example of a carillon.

What makes Beaumont Tower remarkable is the tone and timbre of the bells. It has a particularly beautiful quality to its sound that makes it a joy to play and listen to.
Michigan is a great state for carillons. The instruments are in fairly close proximity which means there are lots of opportunities for me and my students to visit other towers, experience other carillons, and exchange knowledge with their carillonists.

I hope to create opportunities for the students and community to come together and learn from one another. We can visit other local instruments and carillon associations, have concerts and master classes with world-class performers and instructors, and generally engage with the larger global carillon community. I can also connect students to learning opportunities for those who wish to study carillon history, the mechanics and acoustics of the instrument, or other obscure but fascinating subjects.

My hope is to preserve and deepen the connection between the MSU community and the carillon and to make sure it is a beloved and memorable part of the campus experience. Plus, being part of a thriving group of carillon performers has been a highlight of my and so many of my colleagues' time in university. I'd like to make that opportunity available to more folks here at MSU.


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