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UPDATED: Purdue University Fort Wayne’s music technology program to be at Sweetwater

John Fishell, center at back, director of music technology at IPFW, shows some of the university's music technology students what the program's new building will look like on the inside after its renovation. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
Chuck Surack, at the podium, founder and president of Sweetwater, speaks during a news conference Wednesday at Sweetwater to announce a collaboration with IPFW's music technology program. The program will move this fall into an existing building on the Sweetwater campus, which will go through an extensive renovation to accommodate the new use. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
This architectural rendering shows what the finished appearance of the Purdue University Fort Wayne music technology program building will look like after its renovation. The building is located on the Sweetwater campus, 5501 U.S. 30 W. (Photo of illustration by Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
Sweetwater, which is located on a campus at 5501 U.S. 30 W., will allow the IPFW music technology program to relocate to one of its buildings. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)

Purdue University Fort Wayne and Sweetwater officials announced Wednesday afternoon that, beginning this August, a majority of the university’s music technology program will be housed at the Sweetwater campus at 5501 U.S. 30 W.

Sweetwater founder and President Chuck Surack announced he and his wife, Lisa, will donate use of an 8,000-square-foot building on the Sweetwater campus to the music technology program at what is now Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. The university is expected to become Purdue Fort Wayne on July 1.

Once renovated, the building will contain facilities and equipment needed to prepare students for a career using technology in music and sound recording and production. Those features will include a large music recording studio, expansive control room, rehearsal room, editing booths, a sound-isolation booth, classroom and offices, a design plan shows.

As part of that donation, Purdue Fort Wayne students and faculty in the music technology program also will have full use of all amenities on the Sweetwater campus, including its restaurants, health clinic and personal services, Surack said.

The university values the in-kind donation of the building and campus amenities at nearly $1.5 million, he added.

Surack said he and his wife also will provide $1.6 million to pay for renovation and construction so the music technology program can move in by August, Surack said.

The university, which already hires a number of Sweetwater employees to teach part time in its music programs, will pay back the Suracks on a lease basis over six years, said Greg Jones, music department chairman and a professor of music.

The Indiana General Assembly also has approved providing $1 million for the creation of a School of Music at PUFW. The English Bonter Mitchell Foundation also has pledged $1 million toward that effort.

PUFW will use the state money for the music technology program, Jones said, for which costs also include about $750,000 to buy and install music technology equipment and the wiring to operate it.

The English Bonter Mitchell donation will be used for music technology and other music programs offered by the new School of Music, which will be the first in the Purdue University system, he said.

The collaboration with Sweetwater also marks a change in focus for the music program, Jones said.

In the past, IPFW’s music programs have focused heavily on classical music, he said. The Purdue Fort Wayne music programs will emphasize popular music of the past three generations, such as jazz, blues and rock.

Surack said the music technology partnership will prepare students to work in high-demand jobs in the music industry.

“Students, when they graduate, will be instantly employable,” he said.

In addition to being candidates for jobs at Sweetwater, he said graduating students will be prepared for music technology jobs in performance halls, religious congregations and with tech companies, such as Apple and Google.

Jones expects the music technology program to have about 40 students enrolled when it starts this fall at the Sweetwater campus. He believes that enrollment total will triple within five to seven years.

If enrollment in music technology keeps growing after about seven years, Jones said Purdue Fort Wayne will have to discuss finding more space for its School of Music programs because it has reached capacity at Rhinehart Music Center on the university’s Coliseum Boulevard campus.

Looking into the future, Jones said the Purdue Fort Wayne School of Music also hopes to launch its own record label to record and release music. The university will use the label to give students hands-on experience with recording albums and related work, such as scheduling concerts and marketing work to promote a show or new music release.

University of Saint Francis already has launched its own record label and music technology program, and the Purdue Fort Wayne program hopes to collaborate with it, Jones said. But he believes the Purdue Fort Wayne program will be more expansive than the USF program because it offers more music degrees, faculty and support classes.

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