The University Record, February 6, 1995

Stearns Collection resonates with a new note

By Sage Arron

Margo Halsted has a lot to sound off about these days. In addition to being the University carilloneur (since 1987), she is now director of the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments.

Halsted has taught everything from the carillon, piano, handbells and organ to courses in harmony, musicianship, the history of the carillon, Handel and women in music.

Composition and scholarship are two other important facets of Halsted's career. Her carillon music, which has been published by American Carillon Music Editions, includes "Nocturne," "Desert Wind," "Fanfare" and "Impressions." She also has compiled and edited historic and 20th-century carillon compositions by others.

Now her vision and talents also are being applied to the Stearns Collection.

"I think of the Stearns Collection as many things," Halsted says. "It is a repository for the wonderful musical instruments the School of Music has, it is an educational tool for the community and school tour groups, and it is a special place where we can acquire and house historic instruments the faculty and students would like to play."

A docents' program for the Stearns Collection will begin at the end of January and Halsted says that in order "to prepare myself for this new position I'll be attending the tour guide courses and meeting with Professor [James] Borders, who is very key to the collection."

Borders was named acting director when William Malm retired, and has worked with the collection for many years. "He knows where all 2,200 instruments are stored," Halsted says. "I really wouldn't be able to do this job without his advice."

As director, Halsted will work to maintain the quality of the Stearns Newsletter, she'll plan and coordinate the Stearns' lecture series and engage in fundraising. She also is interested in finding a "niche" for the collection. "We can't just collect everything," Halsted notes. "I need to visit other museums in this country and be familiar with exactly what's happening in them so that we can specialize in instruments that are not available in other places."

As far as acquisitions are concerned, Halsted would like to encourage donations and continue listing new donations in the newsletter. "I think people who give instruments want to see that we know that we have them and have other people know that too. That's very important." She also would like to expand financial endowments in order "to do the things that should be done for the collection."

One of the Stearns Collection's oldest instruments is a Chinese seven-stringed zither called a qin (pronounced 'chin'). "We think it's about 500 years old," Halsted comments, "and we have a man coming on Feb. 15 from Hong Kong to give a concert on it."

John Thompson, an American who earned his master's degree here in ethnomusicology and is head of an Asian festival in Hong Kong, is borrowing the Stearns' qin specifically to make a recording. His free, public concert will begin at 8 p.m. in the School of Music's Blanche Anderson Moore Hall.

"As director of the Stearns Collection I would like for people to feel that it belongs to the community so that they will come with their friends to enjoy it.

"There's going to be an art museum built on North Campus in the future and it would be wonderful to have art and musical instruments displayed together. People could come to see both."