Chimesmaster Chenchen Lu ’23 performs in McGraw Tower.

Chimesmaster Chenchen Lu ’23 performs in McGraw Tower. (Ryan Young / Cornell University)

TikTok-ing Chimesmaster Brings Cornell Music to the World

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Sharing Big Red songs and pop tunes, information science major Chenchen Lu ’23 has garnered millions of views

By Caitlin Hayes

Editor’s note: This has been adapted and condensed from a story in the Cornell Chronicle.

Even before she applied to Cornell, Chenchen Lu ’23 was drawn to the Cornell Chimes by the large scale of the instrument, which commands the entire Ithaca campus as its audience.

Now a chimesmaster, Lu has greatly expanded that audience by bringing her performances on the chimes to TikTok, amassing a following of more than 140,000 in the last year.

“I didn’t expect so many people to be interested in bells or this kind of music,” says Lu, an information science major in the Cornell Bowers College of Computing and Information Science.

“It’s been rewarding just to see so many people genuinely curious about the instrument and this raw, kind of weird sound quality that I’ve grown to love. It’s also brought more recognition to the instrument and to Cornell.”

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Lu began posting chimes videos on TikTok in June 2021 and went viral for the first time in July of that year, with a movie theme song that now has 1.4 million views. The number of followers on Lu’s account then grew exponentially.

The success prompted her to continue posting new songs—answering questions about the chimes in the comments and taking requests.

She has played everything from classical favorites, like Felix Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” (2.6 million views), to movie and show theme songs to classic and current rock and pop music, with 4.5 million likes on her posts so far.

It’s been rewarding just to see so many people genuinely curious about the instrument.

She has also created content answering frequently asked questions about the chimes, chronicled a day in the life of a chimesmaster, and documented trips to other bell towers.

Lu says that posting to TikTok motivates her to play more and improve her skills.

“I really just like playing,” she says. “We have a library with thousands of songs, and I like to challenge myself with songs that are more difficult and to try to learn songs that people really like.”

Top: Photo by Ryan Young / Cornell University.

Published September 19, 2022.


Comments

  1. Dianne Dyson Coles, Class of 1969

    Love this!

  2. Dan Allen, Class of 2000

    I had the good fortune of knowing two chimesmasters when I was at Cornell. It’s an instrument like no other and the sound will be forever with me. Whenever I heard the chimes playing, I knew there was a person up there making it happen. And that just gave it so much more meaning. I love that Cornell has something like this which is so uniquely Cornell that you cannot separate the two and hearing it takes you right back to campus and those days as a student. It’s so awesome to not only see the tradition still going strong, but thriving in the digital world despite it being the very epitome of analog.

  3. Sonymarie Socarras, Class of 1994

    Lu, Thanks for keeping alive this beautiful tradition at Cornell. I particularly remember the song “The Rose” being played in campus one beautiful spring day and it brought tears of joy to my eyes. This was sometime between 1990-94. This song was made famous by Bette Midler in 1979. Maybe it is one of those songs you might want to try playing! Keep it up!

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