Baylor Senior Serenades Graduates On McLane Carillon

Aug. 11, 2001

by Lori Scott Fogleman

Make no mistake about it. Baylor alumnus Andy Crocker is a science guy.

A May 2001 graduate in biology, the native of Grand Cane, La., has begun work on his master's of science in gerontology. His future plans include going to medical school to become a gerontologist, radiologist or anesthesiologist.

However, Crocker's choice of medical schools might come down to a most unusual requirement...and one not exactly science-related.

It must have a carillon.

It was during his freshman year at Baylor that Crocker started playing the carillon, a musical instrument of at least 23 cast bronze bells and a mechanical playing keyboard (or clavier) with a pedalboard. He had read an article about Baylor's McLane Carillon and University Carillonneur Dr. Herbert Colvin in the Homecoming edition of The Lariat and was intrigued by the possibility of learning to play the complex instrument.

"I called Dr. Colvin that day and was enrolled in the class the next semester," Crocker said. "He only takes 3 or 4 students a semester so I considered myself lucky to get in. Dr. Colvin was patient with me while I taught my feet how to play the pedals and is still patient with me since they are still learning where to fall."

Anyone who has ever stepped foot on the Baylor campus is familiar with the melodic tones of the 22-ton McLane Carillon, which is housed in the tower of Pat Neff Hall. Dedicated in 1988 as a gift from the Drayton McLane family and the McLane Company Inc., it's among only about 115 carillons in North America with a range of four octaves or more. The bells strike the quarter hours and the hours, can be played manually from the tower or operated by a computer system to play melodies at regular intervals.

Carillonneurs use closed fists and both feet when playing, sending clappers to the stationary bells by striking dowel-like keys. Colvin, professor emeritus of music theory, has served as Baylor's carillonneur since 1988.

The Science of Music

Much has been written about the correlation between the arts, particularly music, and math and science. As a biology major on a pre-med track, Crocker had only to look to the man instructing him for proof of the music-science link.

Colvin had earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry at Baylor before pursuing music degrees at Baylor, University of Colorado and Eastman School of Music.

"Music is math in its purest form -- rhythms and tempos -- while the tones and how they mesh and how to create the sound you want is art and science in one," said Crocker.

In addition to Colvin, Crocker lists Dr. Ray Wilson in biology, Professor Rachel Moore in English and Dr. Alden Smith in classics as his most "academically influential" professors.

"Dr. Wilson taught me human physiology, which is probably one of the hardest classes at Baylor, and he brought gerontology to life this past summer during Baylor in Great Britain, which prompted me to consider a master's degree," Crocker said. "I always have considered myself a well-read person, but Mrs. Moore gave me a love and passion for literature. Dr. Smith convinced me to add a Latin minor to my degree during the last semester of my senior year. He loves learning and he loves to see students cross educational boundaries for a more well-rounded education."

Ring Out "Wrings Out" Emotions

The day before he graduated from Baylor in May 2001, Crocker played a major role in the traditional Ring Out and Passing of the Key ceremonies. As graduates and their families gathered in Burleson Quadrangle, they listened to several classical pieces performed by Crocker and Baylor's assistant carillonneur Lynnette Geary.

"Many students graduating with Andy knew that he played the carillon, and he thought this would be a nice way to honor them," Geary said.

Crocker said he, along with most musicians, are nervous before a concert. Although the room housing the McLane Carillon is kept as cool as possible, it seemed to "get rather warm" for Crocker as his performance neared.

"I was nervous because this was my 'Ring Out.' It was a very big deal for me since I was a graduating senior and I wanted everything to be perfect," he said.

Since 1927, the Ring Out ceremony has included graduating senior women, dressed in traditional graduation gowns, who pass a chain of ivy to junior women wearing white dresses. During Ring Out, the men of the senior and junior classes participate in the Passing of the Key ceremony. With senior men in graduating gowns and junior men in dark suits, a representative of the senior class, who has been designated the "Custodian" of the key to the relics box buried under the Centennial monument, passes the key to a junior representative.

Both ceremonies symbolize the binding of classes in loyalty to the traditions of Baylor. Each was made more special by Crocker's gift to his fellow seniors -- Symphonia for the Carillons by G.F. Handel, Menuetto 1, 2, 3 by Matthias van den Gheyn and the emotional finale, That Good Old Baylor Line.

"About halfway through, I started getting choked up a little bit and I saw Lynnette out of the corner of my eye getting a little choked up, but I made it through," Crocker said. "I have played that song so much up there that I could probably play it blindfolded by now. I guess I was caught up in the moment."

While he completes his schooling at Baylor, Crocker will be searching for the medical school that has a carillon, or one nearby. He wants to continue playing, for the love of music and for another reason.

"For me, playing the carillon was a great stress relief at the end of a hard day," Crocker laughed. "Getting up there and 'banging out' my aggression or just going up and playing music -- that makes me happy."

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