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Sweetwater unveils Purdue Fort Wayne studio

August 14th, 2018

By Ashley Sloboda | The Journal Gazette

Standing before a crowd dotted with black and gold, Sweetwater Sound president and founder Chuck Surack on Monday recalled his younger days as a musician whose band practiced at IPFW.

Behind him loomed an 8,000-square-foot facility on the Sweetwater campus that takes his relationship with the college, now Purdue University Fort Wayne, to a new level: a home for the school's popular music industry program, which is part of its new School of Music.

“We promise you that this is something you just can't see anywhere else in the country. It's really, truly a one-of-a-kind opportunity,” Surack said. “... I'm so excited that it's going to change students for the rest of their lives.”

The Purdue Fort Wayne Sweetwater Music Center features a world-class recording studio with an adjacent teaching lab, isolation booths, editing suites and a collaboration center, among other rooms. It was designed by Russ Berger Design Group Inc.

Surack and his wife, Lisa, provided $1.6 million to refit the building, which the university will reimburse over six years through a lease. The Suracks also will not charge rent or interest, which represents a nearly $1.5 million in-kind gift to the school.

“We are very grateful to Chuck and Lisa Surack for their generosity,” Chancellor Ronald Elsenbaumer said, “and we look forward to educating the next generation of music industry leaders, producers, creators, and performers in this impressive new facility.”

Students and faculty will benefit from being immersed in the culture and surroundings of Sweetwater, a leader in music industry, Elsenbaumer said.

Colleges value such partnerships with businesses, and this relationship with Sweetwater is a “terrific prototype” for the school, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels said.

“Everybody in higher ed now realizes that internships or some kind of work experience that is related to the field of study, whatever that field is, is one of the most valuable things a school can do,” Daniels said as guests began touring the center.

The facility will be the primary location for students pursuing one of two new majors – a bachelor's degree in music industry or popular music – and a music degree with a concentration in music technology. The new degrees are vital for students seeking employment in the music industry.

“I'm just certain that all these students are going to be hired as soon as they're out of school,” Chuck Surack said.

Classes will begin next Monday.

Students Josiah Hawkins and Leah Brubaker, who were working in a control room Monday, don't mind the off-campus location. The new facility more than makes up for the commute, they said.

“I'm just speechless,” Brubaker said, adding it is a “huge step for us.”