Sweetwater Sound Develops Degree Program with University of Saint Francis

Mike Lawson • News • February 22, 2018

In 2007, Sweetwater Sound began a partnership with Fort Wayne, Indiana’s University of Saint Francis — providing funds for scholarships, gear purchase and installation, and other music-related projects — to help create a four-year degree program in Music Technology.

Today, that program has blossomed into a major feature of the university’s School of Creative Arts Music Technology program, and has a new home in the $5-million renovated USF Music Technology Center in the heart of downtown Fort Wayne. The program has been extremely popular for many years with 50 bachelor-level students enrolled this year, who were recruited locally, regionally, and nationally. The program’s six faculty members teach three areas of concentration: Recording Engineering and Production; Audio for the Creative Arts; and Music Technology Sales. The gear to outfit the various aspects of the program was purchased by special arrangement from Sweetwater. Also, Sweetwater sales engineers were involved as consultants on everything from gear to acoustics from the very beginning of the program.

For years, Sweetwater has been providing internships for students and hiring the program’s graduates as sales engineers and to work in Sweetwater Studios. Sweetwater founder and president Chuck Surack, and his wife Lisa, have donated $420,000 in scholarships, plus $250,000 toward renovation of the downtown campus and concert venue, in addition to $100,000 to fund the creation of the university’s first marching band.

“Helping the University of Saint Francis to build a great program in a first-rate facility has been a dream of mine for decades,” said Chuck Surack. “Students are receiving the best possible education in music technology, as professional as any in the country, which benefits the music business, the community, and Sweetwater.”

The USF Music Technology Center in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana houses a 2,000-seat concert hall, several recording studios, a mastering studio, classrooms, a piano lab, 12 individual mix/edit suites, large-ensemble rooms, and individual practice rooms. The concert hall is now equipped with a JBL Intellivox System

The flagship studio A is outfitted with a 32-channel Neve 5088 recording console. Additionally, the Pro Tools HDX system in Studio A has been augmented with Focusrite RedNet equipment so that ensembles and performers from anywhere in the building can be recorded over an Ethernet network via the Dante protocol, be it in an ensemble room two floors above the studios, in the 2,000-seat performance hall, or in a different studio in the building. The Dante protocol is an important developing technology in the industry and students are able to work on the front end of this exciting and flexible workflow. Other noteworthy equipment for Studio A includes a 500 Series rack with industry-standard processors from brands such as SSL, API, Earthworks, and others, as well monitors from ATC. Studio B houses an Avid S6 digital console and is built around a digital multichannel and post-production environment. University of Saint Francis students begin working in Studio B early on, learning the techniques and foundations of digital audio and microphone techniques, as well as necessary production workflows when dealing with multichannel formats and digital recording. The Mastering Studio is built with critical listening in mind. Students work in the mastering studio with industry-standard tools, both digital and analog processors, to learn about the art and craft of mastering. All recording studios and ensemble rooms were designed by Haverstick Designs.

Twelve individual mixing and editing suites are built around an interface, MIDI controller, and all the necessary software applications allowing students to complete their assignments. Seven practice rooms are utilized for individual instrument lessons, practicing, and small-ensemble rehearsals. A large-ensemble room boasts a Steinway grand piano. In addition to being a great-sounding rehearsal space for many different ensembles, all recording studios and ensemble rooms have adjustable acoustic panels.

“The University of Saint Francis is very grateful for the financial and technical support from Chuck and Lisa Surack and Sweetwater that enabled us to develop the state-of-the-art studios, classrooms, and practice spaces now available in our new Music Technology Center in downtown Fort Wayne,” said the university’s president, Sister Elise Kriss. “We believe the design and quality of these learning spaces is unique, and will benefit our students, faculty, and alumni for years to come. More and more of our graduates are being hired by Sweetwater because of their high-quality education and career preparation.”

“From the very beginning, Sweetwater has been a major supporter and helped guide us in creating a nationally recognized state-of-the-art Music Technology program and facility,” said Rick Cartwright, Dean Emeritus of the School of Creative Arts. “They have supported our students by providing scholarships, internships, part-time jobs, and extending invitations to all their in-service training. Our students are fortunate to be five minutes away from Sweetwater’s magnificent facility and numerous mentoring opportunities.”


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