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Tam, Tin-Shi

Published onNov 08, 2021
Tam, Tin-Shi

(1962 – )

Quick Facts

Tin-Shi Tam is first person to hold the title of Cownie Professor of Music (University Carillonneur) at Iowa State University.

Dr. Tin-Shi Tam plays the carillon during the lunch hour on Friday, April 7, 2017. Source: Photo by Nick Fetty.

Tin-Shi Tam is a native of Hong Kong. She earned a Bachelor's degree in music from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, a Master of Science in arts management from Durham University, England, a Master of Arts in organ performance from The University of Wales, Cardiff, and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in organ from The University of Michigan.

Tam is the Chair of the keyboard division and the first person to hold the title of Cownie Professor of Music (University Carillonneur), an endowed carillon teaching position in the Department of Music, established by Charles T. (‘26) & Ivadelle Cobb (’27) Cownie. She was recruited by Iowa State in 1994 to become only its fifth carillonneur in the campanile's 112-year history. Although initially unaware of the significant role the carillon bells played in the life of the university, she soon discovered the passion students had for the bells. Tam also started a new tradition in which she plays special requests from students each Friday. These requests range from Classical to Pop and Country to Rock. Also, theme songs from TV shows such as Dr. Who, movies such as Harry Potter and video games are very popular. Requests are mostly songs or artists that students like.

As an ISU faculty member, Tam established and organizes the ISU Carillon Composition Competition, which is the first of its kind sponsored by a major educational institution. This competition is held to encourage the writing of original carillon compositions by young composers. Since the first year of the competition (1995), there have been over 100 manuscript entries from the United States and overseas. She hosted the 57th Congress of The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America at Iowa State University in 1999, as part of the Centennial Celebration of the Bells of Iowa State. She initiated the commission of an original carillon composition “Star Bells for carillon and orchestra” by Jeffrey Prater. The premiere (Dec 2002) took place in real time via fiber-optic technology, with the carillon on central campus and the Central Iowa Symphony at C.Y. Stephens, separated by nearly a mile. Her carillon compact disk “The Bells of Iowa State” was released in 2004 and contains music that represents various eras of the Bells of Iowa State: from the first tune ever rung on the original ten-bell chime in 1899 to the Cyclone favorite Iowa State Fights and the beloved Bells of Iowa State. She also established and serves as liaison to the ISU society of Carillon Alumni and Friends.

A celebrated artist on carillon and organ, Tam has given recitals in Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe, and the United States. She was a featured carillon recitalist at the Festival International de Carillon en Côte d'Or in France, the Twelfth International Carillon Festival at Bok Tower Gardens in Florida, and the Congresses of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America at Princeton University, The University of Michigan, Ball State University, and Grand Valley State University. She has also represented the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America in performance at the World Carillon Federation Congress in Groningen, The Netherlands. At present, she is a committee member of the Franco Composition Fund and the Examination Committee of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America.

As an organ soloist, she has collaborated with Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra at the Opening Festival of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. It was followed by a performance at National Concert Hall in Taiwan, R.O.C. She also appeared as a guest soloist with the Central Iowa Symphony, and was a featured artist at organ dedications. She was the dean of the American Guild of Organist, central Iowa chapter, and a member of the board of directors of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America.

At ISU, Tam has been recognized on the list of “150 Fascinating People of LAS,” the ISU Alumni Association’s “The 20 most intriguing people on campus.” Her work as carillonneur has been covered in the media by ABC/ESPN as part of game day festivities, the Ames Tribune, the Des Moines Register, Inside Iowa State, Iowa State Daily, as well as KCCI, IPTV, WOI, and Fox 17. Internationally, she has performed on the world largest carillon at Hyechon University, Korea and a recital in Halle, Germany for over 800 people including the mayor of Halle, chief of the UNICEF, city archivist and state curator. She also had recitals broadcast in Brøndby Strand Kirke, Denmark and Domtoren, Utrecht and has conducted TV and newspaper interviews in many countries around the world.

Selected Sources

Iowa State University website

Our campus is her concert hall (2008).

Iowa State University Carillon page

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