As McGraw Tower Reopens to Visitors, Cornell Chimes Program Continues to Evolve

On Monday, April 11, McGraw Tower once again opened its doors to visitors hoping to climb its 161 stairs to attend a Cornell Chimes concert. 

The tower, which has been a staple of Cornell’s central campus, has been closed to visitors since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the student musicians that play the bells three times a day, known as chimesmasters, the lack of an in-tower audience has been anomalous, but not a prevention to their craft. 

“It’s been really odd playing without visitors,” Linda Li grad, head chimesmaster, said. “Now that we’ve opened back up, it’s been really exciting to show visitors who is behind the music.”

The Chimes program now hopes to give students, especially those graduating this semester, a chance to visit the tower. “We have a lot of Cornellians that haven’t had the opportunity to go into the tower because it’s been closed for approximately two years,” Marisa LaFalce ’96, the Cornell Chimes program coordinator said. “We’re working with Campus Activities to provide some opportunities for seniors to climb the tower during Senior Days.” 

Li described limitations placed on the Chimes program due to the pandemic, such as restrictions on the number of chimesmasters allowed in the tower at a time and the inability to play duet pieces. 

Despite this, the chimes have continued to ring out across campus, which Li described as a relaxing time away from classes that also connected her to the real world when classes were all digital.