Underneath the skybridge between the Tinbergen and Erasmus buildings, there is a room with a practice carillon. Every Wednesday, Polak teaches students to play it. This year, he has four new students. The French International Bachelor of Economics and Business economics (IBEB) student Sarah Burnod learned about the carillon course through the Studium Generale website. “I was looking for events and I stumbled upon this course. It looked fun and I wanted to try playing another instrument besides piano.” Sarah started the course with fellow IBEB student Azura Ha Nguyen from Vietnam. Azura wanted to try a European musical instrument, because they don’t have a carillon in Vietnam.

Carillon foto Laanen

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Practising modern songs like “Señorita”, Sarah and Azura play the carillon together. The girls love this song, it has a really nice melody. As they can both play piano, they know how to read music notes, which is the only requirement for the course. “I think it also makes it easier to learn when you can play the piano,” says Azura. “Although the carillon has more pedals which makes it more difficult.” Despite  some hesitant moments while they play, Polak compliments the girls a lot.


Another difference between a piano and the carillon is that you use your fists to press the ’keys’ of the carillon, called batons. During the class, Polak gives the girls advice. “You need to move your wrist like you’re using a hammer.” The batons are wooden handles, so you can use more strength with your fists. For both girls, hitting the batons with their fists for an hour turns out to be quite painful. But after this tip, the music does sound better. He also let them answer quiz questions about the carillon. For instance, did you know that Italy, the country of churches and bells, has no carillon?

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But besides that, both Azura as Sarah are enthusiastic about the instrument. “If I’m confident enough after this course, I’d also like to play the carillon once a week on campus,” says Sarah. Azura also likes the idea of playing the carillon on campus. “I’d really like people on campus to hear the music that I created.” When I ask her why it would be different from playing the piano for people, she laughs. “When you play the carillon, no one can see you, so there’s less chance of people spotting my mistakes.”