Retiring University Carillonist Jeff Davis reflects on ‘the coolest job in the world’

June 10, 2024

Jeff Davis’ workspace is rare: It’s UC Berkeley’s iconic Campanile, one of the world’s tallest clock-and-bell towers and home to 20 tons of ancient fossils, a famous falcon family and its centerpiece — a 61-bell grand carillon.

But Davis’ position as university carillonist and the teaching program he’s built on campus are just as rare. Davis, who is retiring July 1 at the age of 80, is one of only six full-time paid university carillonists in North America. And Berkeley’s carillon instruction, part of the Department of Music, is among the most extensive and prominent in the world.

Davis has spent about half his career in the Campanile. On the sixth floor of the historic granite monolith, just below the clock faces, he has a small live-work studio that includes a practice carillon.

Over the years, he’s taught about 200 students to play the bells, which are suspended above a playing cabin on the tower’s observation deck and connected to clappers, or hammers, controlled from a keyboard. The bells — ranging in weight from 20 pounds to 5.25 tons — can be heard several miles away and are central to daily life on campus.

“The coolest job in the world” is how Davis has described it.

Berkeley News