By Ryan Hebert, Associate Professor of Music, Chair of the Department of Music
March 30, 2022
In a few weeks, and for the first time in history, bells will sound on the campus of The University of Tampa. There is a deep change afoot in the underlying character of our beloved campus. The atmosphere will sing and the aural landscape of the campus will be transformed into a place of enchantment, filled with the resounding overtones of bells wafting above.
Aside from the human voice, bells are among the oldest of musical instruments in the world. In ancient civilizations, in both East and West, they have been used as a call to prayer or meditation – a reminder that something larger is at work in the universe. They have historically alarmed the townspeople of invading intruders, or they’ve rung out in celebration of victory. But bells always call people toward their community. They toll for the dead. They peal with a rumbling clang for significant events – for the acclamation of freedom, for the signing of peace treaties, for nuptial declarations and for the pomp and circumstance that accompanies the arrival of distinguished dignitaries. They connect people to the music of their culture, and they have been affixed to places of great significance.
From cathedrals and monasteries to government buildings, iconic clocktowers and academic institutions, when we hear bells, we know we have stepped onto hallowed grounds. They ring as a symbol of sacrifice. They ring to show that profundity and moral character matter in our world. Many academic institutions have bells – Yale, Harvard and Princeton to name a few. They play folk songs, fight songs and holiday songs. They tell time, and they catch the attention of the passerby. They animate the air, and they create a delightful ping that reminds people that there is something greater than themselves at work in life. Tower bells rarify the environment, and they create a fairy tale surrounding, one where the mundane becomes special, extraordinary and magical when they begin to sing.
This bell structure will transform UT like nothing that has come before it. With an aged-old system of bell casting, and the combination of innovation and modern technology, we have taken the nostalgia of yesteryear and catapulted it into the 21st century. No other school can boast such a forward-thinking advancement of historical, musical practices. The bells will ring for many reasons, but they will mean something very special for each individual pair of ears. The bells will remind us that we are home when we are on campus, that all of humanity is welcomed here and that we are all on the same team.
The University of Tampa will finally have its crown jewel, a unifying symbol of strong character and deep meaning. Like all things of value, the Ars Sonora will be a teacher. The sights and sounds of the newly-installed bell tower will help each person to reflect on what it means to be a better human. The music and architecture will inspire awe and spark innovation. The plaza will be a place where new friendships will be forged, new ideas will be hatched and solutions to complex problems will have their genesis.
Bells are sounds of nostalgia. As graduates move on, they will bring with them precious memories of our enchanted campus, alive with ringing overtones, cast in bronze. Let the bells ring, they will be our collective voice, our cohesive language, calling everyone together — people of all ethnicities, creeds and nationalities. UT’s new campus symbol will not only decorate our beautiful oasis, it will unify and humble our hearts.
When you step onto campus, and you see the new sights and hear the new sounds of this magnificent structure, you will know that you have stepped onto hallowed grounds. You will know that this place matters, but more importantly, you’ll know that you matter, and that each individual in this world is as important as the next. The purpose of art is to make sense of the world and to make life relevant and more profound. Now, our campus will have a daily, musical reminder of the wonder, awe and inspiration of life itself.
The new Ars Sonora signifies our commitment to looking at the University experience in a holistic manner, as we nurture student development and help to prepare students to live their lives as responsible citizens.
We hope the Ars Sonora will further complement the Sykes Chapel as our many student groups, dozens of community partnerships and hundreds of programs and events focus on enhancing an understanding of diverse cultures and world religions. This encourages students to deliberate about their own personal values and helps them learn to make decisions based on values and principles.
With first-rate musical performances and events, the Ars Sonora and its fountain and plaza will be a beautiful, distinctive spot for the University community to gather. But just as important, its ringing bells will inspire each of us to reflect on our life and become the kind of person we want to be.