Skip to main content

Environmental Science student plays the carillon in UF Century Tower

college student sitting at carillon console

Lauren Bradley at the batons of the UF carillon. (photo provided)

While walking around the UF campus, keep your ears open for the School of Natural Resources and Environment’s Lauren Bradley. She is a third-year student pursuing a major in environmental science and a minor in music performance. You will not miss her practicing or performing because she plays the UF carillon, a set of 61 bells located inside Century Tower.

A carillon is similar to a piano or organ but instead of keys, it has levers, called batons. The batons attach to clappers, which strike the bells. Then bells resonate, producing the beloved chimes that can be heard across campus.

An inside look at the Century Tower carillon bells. There are 61 total bells. Photo from University of Florida by Bernard Brzezinski.

Becoming a Music Minor

Lauren first discovered the carillon during the fall of her sophomore year at UF. She took piano lessons from the first grade until her senior year of high school and also plays the guitar, clarinet, and tenor saxophone.  She began to miss playing music once coming to college.

“I was pretty sad that I didn’t have a music thing to do in my life anymore,” Lauren said. At first, she looked into becoming a piano minor. However, they were not accepting applicants at the time. Then a friend told her that she could audition to play carillon in the tower, and she auditioned that same fall semester.

She joined in the spring of her sophomore year and discovered that she could in fact minor in music performance with carillon. Then COVID hit.

“I had to take a five-month break from carillon,” Lauren said. But it didn’t deter her from pursuing a minor. When she came back to campus in August, she began practicing with the hope of becoming a music minor.

“I practiced all fall to get my audition together,” Lauren said. She auditioned in December and was officially accepted into the carillon studio as a music minor to study with Dr. Laura Ellis, professor and associate school director of the School of Music. Dr. Ellis teaches organ, carillon, and harpsichord.

Now, Lauren practices about six hours a week and loves it. “It gives me an excuse to practice and something to work toward with the daily concerts and recitals,” Lauren said.

She practices either in Century Tower or in the carillon studio, which is located in the University Auditorium. The studio has an exact replica of Century Tower’s 61 bells.

Lauren plays the carillon in the studio located in the University Auditorium. The carillon has both hand and foot batons. Photo by Caitlin Petros.

Every weekday at 12:35 p.m. and 4:55 p.m., the carillon studio has daily performances. Lauren’s daily performance is Wednesday at 12:35 p.m. Once a month on Friday at 6 p.m., the studio performs a concert. Programs for daily recitals and monthly concerts can be found on the UF School of Music website.

Combining Music and Environmental Science

Lauren would like to pursue a career in environmental toxicology, the study of chemicals on human health and the environment. She is currently working on a literature review on sugar cane burning pollution as well as a project in Brevard County, Florida, examining the effect of PFAS. PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that are persistent in the environment and in the human body, according to the US EPA. She is doing research with the university to determine if the presence of PFAS has any correlation to types of cancer in Brevard County.

Lauren is in the CALS Honors Program and is preparing to write her thesis on the respiratory effects of harmful algae blooms and red tide waves. She is a member of Alpha Zeta, the CALS Honors Fraternity. This semester, she is also assisting one of her professors with a youth internship program, in which she will be a mentor.

Lauren is passionate about helping others and said that combining environmental science and music performance has been a unique opportunity to do so.

“My major and my minor are connected in a weird way. I care about people’s well-being and having a good experience in the world. With music performance, playing carillon for campus makes campus a better experience,” Lauren said. “Studying environmental toxicology improves people’s experience of life, such as being able to be outside and breath clean air.”

Lauren will be applying to graduate schools for environmental toxicology next year. She is hoping for a school with a carillon. “I want to make the most of my time here at UF playing it because I really don’t know what opportunities I will have to play carillon in the future,” Lauren said.

Lauren may not be able to take an 11-story tower with her everywhere she goes, but she will always have her love and appreciation for music.