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Posted on Thu, Oct 29, 2009 : 6 a.m.

Halloween with the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Trick or Treat this Halloween with the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance and the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments…in the belfry of Burton Tower?

From the Stearns Web site:

“Holding over 2,500 pieces of historical and contemporary musical instruments from all over the world, the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments is one of the largest accumulations of such artifacts housed in a North American university. Known internationally as a unique collection, it is not only a precious heritage from the past, but also a rich resource for musical, educational, and cultural needs of the present and future.”

The Stearns is often out and about in the community giving children the opportunity to see and touch and hear and make musical instruments from around the world. Here is an opportunity for the rest of us to get up close—very close—to the carillon, originally developed in The Netherlands, Belgium, and Northern France, which are such serious business there that UNESCO has actually designated it a World Heritage Site—the Belfries of Belgium and France. According to the University of Michigan School of Music website, our Charles Baird Carillon was built in 1936 and is the third heaviest in the world. It has 55 bells, the largest of which weighs 12 tons. Do you remember the year the carillon played the live accompaniment to the silent movie Hunchback of Notre Dame at Top of the Park? Oooh, chills.

So on the night of Saturday, Oct. 31, go climb the stairs of Burton Memorial Tower at the University of Michigan Central Campus to the ninth and tenth floors (alright, there is an elevator to the eighth floor, but that takes all the adventure out of it). Festivities start at 7 p.m. and end after Band-O-Rama (about 10 p.m.). They promise candy, costumes, bells, and bats.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Ann Arbor and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is editor of Asian American Village, a contributor for, and a contributor for New America Media. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her website at, her blog at, and she can be reached at