Change Ringing: A Sewanee Gem

When I was a Freshman one of my friends asked me if I wanted to do “bell ringing” with her for our gym credit. Open to anything and wanting to be able to say I can do something musical, I said yes, not knowing what change ringing even was.


Shortly after I found myself with my friend walking all the way to the top of Breslin Tower (about 70 steps – yes I’ve counted before). I could already see why this counted as a gym credit.

I then learned that we would be ringing bells that weighed between about 500 to 1200 pounds by pulling a rope that hangs through the ceiling that the bells are above. Our Professor, Ray Gotko, built a fake simulation of a bell that we learned to ring on, and were able to see how the rope pulls the wheel that the bell is on. Apparently it’s all physics.


Slowly but surely my friend and I learned how to ring and now in our third semester we can play different tunes like “Plain Bob” and “The Mexican Wave,” and we can hunt on 3, 4, and 5.

Picture below is the bell in the "up" position after being rung up:

Making change ringing particularly cool, it is only offered in few other universities in the United States.

Next time you hear the bells ringing stop by the Breslin Tower, have a conversation with Professor Ray Gotko, and watch and learn how the magic is made.