The Journal Gazette
Thursday, January 11, 2018 1:00 am

Purdue to use Sweetwater site

Building to house music technology program

RON SHAWGO | For The Journal Gazette

The future home of Purdue Fort Wayne's music technology program will be on the Sweetwater Sound campus.

Sweetwater will convert an existing 8,000-square-foot building south of the company's main offices into state-of-the-art studios, classrooms and other teaching space, IPFW and Sweetwater announced Wednesday.

Sweetwater founder Chuck Surack and his wife, Lisa, will provide $1.6 million to refit the building, which the university will reimburse over six years through a lease.

The Suracks will not charge rent or interest, which represents a $1.465 million in-kind gift to the school, officials said.

The facility, which will contain the majority of the school's music technology program, is expected to open in August with about 40 students, although enrollment could triple in five to seven years, said Greg Jones, IPFW's music department chairman. Faculty will come from Purdue Fort Wayne and Sweetwater, he said.

While current music degrees have a classical music core, the new program will focus on the production of popular music such as rock, jazz and blues, he said. For freshman Leah Brubaker, now studying classical piano, that's a positive change.

“That's where a lot of the kids' focus is – real-world applications,” said Brubaker, who attended the announcement at Sweetwater.

Sweetwater, 5501 U.S. 30, is an online retailer of music instruments and audio gear, serving musicians, recording studios, broadcast, education and houses of worship.

Indiana University and Purdue University trustees approved an agreement for IPFW's governance that establishes two institutions beginning July 1.

IU will have a lower profile and focus on health sciences. Purdue will handle all other academic programs, including IU's former music program, and become Purdue Fort Wayne.

A $1 million English-Bonter-Mitchell Foundation grant and a $1 million allocation from the state of Indiana as part of the 2017-19 biennium budget will help fund the new School of Music. The school will offer the only music degrees within the Purdue system.

IPFW also will have a new music curriculum to focus on music creation, production and marketing, Jones said. “All of this heavily involves technology,” he added.

The Rhinehart Music Center, which currently houses the music program, is at capacity, Jones said. The Sweetwater building, formerly used for marketing, has been vacant a couple of years, Chuck Surack said.

“To do this program, we knew we needed a dedicated place,” because some of the music “gets kind of loud,” Jones said.

Surack said graduates of the program will be “instantly employable” at places needing audio expertise like performance halls, churches and at corporations such as Apple, Google, Tesla and General Motors.

“Sweetwater's relationship with the music department at the IU and Purdue campus has been strong for decades,” he said. “This music technology facility takes that relationship to an entirely new level.

“It will not only provide a fully equipped, state-of-the-art learning facility but will allow for more collaboration and integration between students and the professional work of Sweetwater's talented and dedicated music professionals, as well as access through internships to our three professional recording studios and performance theater.”

IPFW Chancellor Ron Elsenbaumer said the announcement was a long time coming, and he credited former Chancellor Vicky Carwein with spearheading the effort. Carwein, who retired at the end of 2017, did not attend Wednesday's announcement.

Carwein was “very excited about today's news and is cheering us on from afar,” he said.

The new facility will have three isolation booths, four editing suites, a student musical collaboration center, an equipment library, classrooms, conference rooms and administrative offices. It will accommodate two proposed new majors: a bachelor of science degree in music industry and a bachelor's in popular music.

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry, who attended the announcement, said the IPFW-Sweetwater partnership serves as a foundation for local economic development and as a model for future public-private partnerships.

“Truly, this is what the future is all about,” he said.

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