Local music education world class
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Fort Wayne has gained a reputation as the Midwest’s “Music City” with a prolific talent pool, the nation’s largest online music retailer, and a seemingly insatiable thirst for music. While the city has grown into a center for everything musical, nationwide there has been a burgeoning demand for well-trained people in the fields of music and music production.
There was a time that people in Fort Wayne felt compelled to look elsewhere for the proper education to prepare for a career in the music industry. But in the last few years, local universities have responded to this demand by creating more opportunities for emerging musicians and music industry professionals to earn degrees right here in Northeast Indiana.
With new developments from Purdue Fort Wayne and University of Saint Francis degree programs, there is no need to travel outside of Fort Wayne to get a quality, world-class music education.
music technology centerpiece at Saint Francis
Speaking of the uniqueness of today’s music industry, Chair of the University of Saint Francis Department of Music Miles Fulwider told Whatzup, “We all recognize that this is not a normal industry. We, as educators, have to be really flexible to understand and read the trends. We have to be adaptable.”
The University of Saint Francis offers a bachelor of science and associate of science in music technology as well as a music technology and music minor. With these programs comes a combination of possibilities.
Students have their choice of five different concentrations:
Recording, Engineering, and Production.
Post-Production and Sound Design.
Live Audio and Event Productions.
Contemporary Artist Development and Musicianship.
“Within these disciplines, we’ve designed flexibility into the program to allow students to customize to their needs,” Fulwider said. “We allow students to have multiple concentrations if they choose.”
With so many different options to choose from, Fulwider told Whatzup it is important for the school to work closely with students to help them identify the perfect fit for them.
“We’re very active with our students in the advising process,” he said. “We have a lot of conversations and help them understand what it is they want to do and where they want to go. We help them understand the resources available at the university to make better decisions and take the appropriate paths to get where they want to go.”
Purdue Fort Wayne creates School of Music
Across town, Purdue Fort Wayne is putting its own unique signature touch on a well-rounded music education.
With its new Purdue brand and a new partnership/facility with Sweetwater, the university is wasting no time developing new cutting-edge music programs.
“We are Purdue University’s first and only school of music,” Director of Music Technology at Purdue Fort Wayne John Fishell told Whatzup. “That brings the power and recognition of the Purdue brand to a music school right here in Fort Wayne, along with the stature of Sweetwater supporting us.”
Fishell taught for several years in a number of big-name music schools such as Middle Tennessee State University and University of Colorado. With this experience came the vision for the next step in the Purdue music program.
“When I landed in Fort Wayne, I was just thinking, ‘Maybe we could take the best parts of all those programs and actually get them going here in Fort Wayne.’ In order for that to happen, we needed to create new degrees, we needed a facility that supported those new degrees, and we really needed to strengthen our bond with Sweetwater. All of those things happened and now we’ve arrived.”
These new developments are an addition to the university’s long-standing traditional music school with degrees in vocal and instrumental performance and music therapy. To build on its esteemed musical foundation, Purdue developed new bachelor of science degrees: Popular Music and Music Industry.
Both new programs are taught in the university’s new Sweetwater Music Center on Sweetwater’s campus. This close proximity to a major music employer allows students a peek into the “real world” application of their studies.
hands-on Opportunities with Sweetwater
Both Purdue Fort Wayne and University of Saint Francis collaborate with Sweetwater to create a well-rounded educational experience for their students. Specifically, both schools make use of a Sweetwater liaison, Nathan Heironimus, to create a pipeline for hands-on opportunities.
“He is here to make connections happen between our interested students and opportunities within Sweetwater,” Fishell said. “Whether that is an internship, job shadowing, or helping with events, sales meetings, workshops, or seminars, our students get to be involved in real-world applications of what they’re learning.”
Fulwider said it is the vision of Saint Francis to open doors for their students to gain this kind of professional experience.
“Opportunities can be within their coursework, they can be things where people have reached out to us and have a unique project, or sometimes companies reach out with some unique opportunities for student involvement,” he said.
While their partnerships with music industry employers makes these schools’ programs unique, their quality and prestige stems from the faculty and facilities.
“We have this wonderful facility now and students are using that as a great tool. Students are doing excellent music and audio recording,” Fishell said. “We built a great rock n’ roll studio that actually can do lots of other things. We’ve built in a lot of video capability so students can have that experience, too.”
Fulwider told Whatzup that they take pride in their downtown music campus.
“We have two large recording studios, a mastering studio, two large rehearsal environments, and 12 individual mix and edit suites,” Fulwider said. “We have our large auditorium and a large ballroom. All this stuff downtown allows our students to be really creative.”
University of Saint Francis touts 24-hour access to all of these resources. To ensure their curriculum is on the cutting edge of the music industry, USF employs professors who are also working professionals in the field they teach.
Fulwider said this allows them to “have some other vantage points to assimilate information in order to make sure we are moving down the correct path for our students.”
As Purdue continues to offer a wide variety of music degrees with its talented faculty, Fishell told Whatzup that its new programs in partnership with Sweetwater allow the college to be nimble as it brings in experts to instruct its students.
“For example, we had a great opportunity with a Sweetwater employee who is just a great teacher and really expert on everything about guitar,” Fishell said. “We are structured so that we could very quickly offer a class on everything there is to know about guitar. That kind of flexibility in education is unique.”
This kind of innovative and relevant music education is Fort Wayne’s latest draw.
“The idea that folks can stay in Northeast Indiana to get a top-shelf education in music is completely on point,” Fishell said. “It is going to get even better from here as we have more and more success.”