Photo by Katie Stewart.
1012 Samford carillonneur Stephen Knight
Stephen Brooks Knight is Samford University’s carillonneur.
Almost every day, Stephen Brooks Knight climbs a number of tumultuous staircases up into the bell tower that sits atop Samford University’s library. The staircases wind so tightly that there is barely room to move. The trek to the top of the building is difficult even for an able-bodied 20-year-old, let alone a man who is legally blind.
Once to the top of the bell tower, Knight changes into his proper bell-playing shoes. He sits on a bench and gently strokes the keys of the carillon, an organ-like instrument. The sight is such a beautiful one, it’s easy to forget that he’s in a dusty and dark attic of sorts.
Knight has been Samford’s carillonneur since 1974. Almost every day at 4:30 p.m., the bells at Samford can be heard all over campus and even on the Lakeshore Greenway across the street. People from all over the community can hear the enchanting sounds provided by Knight.
“There is nothing I love more than playing as often as I can,” Knight said. “The music from a carillon is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful things a person can hear.”
Knight has a total of six degrees, four of them being at the post-graduate level. He has studied under 13 renowned musicians and has been requested to travel all over Europe to play on multiple occasions. He even was a student at Perkins School for the Blind, where Helen Keller also graduated.
While his resume is extremely impressive, what is even more astounding is how he plays the carillon. He sways to the music as his hands move quickly over the keys like a blur. He plays a beautiful classical piece so diligently, he forgets anyone is even observing.
Knight is so absorbed in his creation of music that nothing can interrupt him.