Elite musicians from around the world are converging in Wabash for the new Honeywell Arts Academy

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic began, leaders in Wabash debuted the long-awaited grand reopening of their historic Eagles Theatre.

A community centerpiece, the five-story, 1906 theatre had been undergoing a renovation for two years, turning it into a world-class playground for artists with music lesson rooms, recording studios, and a fully restored grand ballroom.

Now, Wabash leaders are teaming up with elite musicians across the country to make up for lost time in a big way.

Inside the Eagles Theatre in Wabash.

In June, global music scholars and world-renowned music faculty of multiple genres and instruments will converge in Wabash for the first annual Honeywell Arts Academy. The Academy is a three-week, full-scholarship summer institute, putting Wabash on the map for musicians from Los Angeles to South Korea.

One scholar, a South Korean pianist, Sae Yoon Chon, traveled more than 6,000 miles to participate.

Members of the 2021 Resonance program of the Honeywell Arts Academy perform at the Eagles Theatre in Wabash.

Making its debut June 14-29, the Honeywell Arts Academy is comprised of three separate music programs for different groups of music scholars. Resonance (June 14-18) is an innovation-driven program for music entrepreneurs. Soundboard (June 19-23) is a program for the next generation of pianists. And Wabash’s long-running Wabass Institute (June 24-29) is for double bassists.

The three programs are built on the Wabass Institute's ongoing success in Wabash and united by a teaching philosophy, known as the “sharing of knowledge.” Ranaan Meyer, Artistic Director of Honeywell Arts Academy and the Founding Program Director of the Wabass Institute, describes this philosophy as a nontraditional approach to music scholarship, in which artists build on each other’s ideas and strengths.

“We strive to break down the hierarchy between teachers and students and empower them to become life-long learners,” Meyer says.

Ranaan Meyer is Artistic Director of Honeywell Arts Academy and the Founding Program Director of the Wabass Institute.

He points out that the student-to-teacher ratio at the Arts Academy is 3:1, allowing for maximum interaction and learning potential. This, along with the “sharing” mindset of the programs, makes the Academy highly selective for scholars.

“Obviously, we are looking for exceptional talent, virtuosity, and creative minds, but we also want people with a supportive nature,” Meyer says. “We want students who can mesh as a team and create a nurturing spirit. The whole point is to search for strengths and to keep building on that.”

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The concept for the Honeywell Arts Academy began with the annual Wabass Institute, founded in 2008 and moved to the Honeywell Center in 2015.

Meyer—an Emmy award-winning gold record artist and bassist of the genre-blending ensemble Time for Three based in Philadelphia, PA—has run the Wabass Institute for its 13 seasons. In this role, he has been working with the Honeywell Center to attract the highest caliber of stringed double bass scholars to participate in the five-day, intensive training program each year.

The Honeywell Arts Academy grew out of the prestigious Wabass Institute for double string bassists.

For the artists, the institute offers a chance to experiment with Honeywell’s world-class equipment, gain a once-in-a-lifetime mentorship from classical music rock stars, and build a career for themselves as full-time musicians. The Wabass Institute boasts a 95 percent alumni placement rate in prestigious, full-time music careers.

Meyer’s wife, Emily Meyer, who is also a classical musician, serves as the first Program Director for the Honeywell Arts Academy.

“Former students work across the globe in positions as diverse as the concertmaster of the Israeli Opera Orchestra to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra to the alternative group, Sybarite5,” Emily says.

Ranaan Meyer is Artistic Director of Honeywell Arts Academy and the Founding Program Director of the Wabass Institute.

For the Wabash community, Wabass has provided a chance to meet and experience global musicians at the top of their game, too. The Honeywell Arts Academy is offering three ticketed performances this month at the conclusion of each of its programs at the Eagles Theatre.

Honeywell Foundation Chief Development Officer, Cathy Gatchel, feels that expanding the Wabass institute into a full-fledged Arts Academy broadens its catalytic impact in the music industry.

“The new academy, with three different programs, makes a bigger statement,” she says. “The expanded institute creates a cultural hub, and that excitement ripples out well beyond Wabash.”


                                                  
While Honeywell leaders had talked with Meyer for years about building on the Wabass Institute’s success with additional programming, they didn’t have a chance to make it happen until the COVID-19 pandemic put other goals on hold.

“You don’t want to give the pandemic too much credit for anything,” Gatchel says. “But the pandemic allowed us to dig into the details of what this could be.”

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This year’s Honeywell Arts Academy includes a total of 30 classical music scholars from 16 states and four countries who take turns living at the same residence in Wabash during their programs and learning from nationally renowned music faculty at the Eagles Theatre.

Emily says the students participating in the Academy’s programs are “the crème de la crème,” chosen from more than 150 qualified applicants. She believes the academy is bringing something unique to the music industry in the scope and nature of its instruction.

“As far as I know, we are the only organization in the country with this kind of a program,” she says. “There are camps for bluegrass and jazz, or classical, but nothing multi-genre and with a full-scholarship component.”

Members of the 2021 Resonance program of the Honeywell Arts Academy perform at the Eagles Theatre in Wabash.


She appreciates the camaraderie the Arts Academy cultivates, particularly in the music industry, which can be cutthroat.

“Some music programs are very competitive and run the risk of creating a negative environment; We are doing the opposite,” Emily says. “We want to make a space for everyone. Our goal is to help these young people be the best musicians they can be.”

Two of the students participating in the Resonance program of the Arts Academy are the sibling duo, known as the Sempre Sisters: Charlotte and Olivia Marckx, a violinist and cellist, respectively. They got connected to the Academy by following Ranaan’s career.

“Olivia and I have been huge fans of Time for Three ever since I first got the chance to collaborate with them on a pop cover video when I was about 13,” Charlotte says. “So when we heard they were doing a summer program, we knew we had to participate.”

The Sempre Sisters, Charlotte and Olivia Marckx, a violinist and cellist, respectively.

Charlotte and Olivia are classically trained musicians with a love of playing multiple genres, which also attracted them to Resonance with its focus on experimentation and innovation.

“The multi-genre aspect of our music is not something we generally get to spend a lot of time on,” Charlotte says.

Ranaan Meyer is an Emmy award-winning gold record artist and bassist of the genre-blending ensemble Time for Three based in Philadelphia, PA.

One of the faculty members they’re learning from at Resonance is multi-genre artist, Peter Dugan, who has performed in several famed duos and trios and hosts NPR's iconic show "From the Top.” Peter Dugan is a faculty member for the 2021 Honeywell Arts Academy. He is a multi-genre artist who has performed in several famed duos and trios and hosts NPR's iconic show "From the Top.”

“To spend a week under the guidance of Time for Three and Peter Dugan is really an incredible opportunity for us,” Charlotte says. “Just being in the presence of these greats is inspiring.”

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Overall, the Honeywell Arts Academy’s goals are two-fold: Both pushing the music world forward and also providing students the tools to be able to earn a living with their music.

For Wabash residents, having the Arts Academy in their hometown means bringing new cultures to the area, too.

“As someone who has lived my whole life in this community, I love seeing the scholars’ reaction to Wabash,” Gatchel says. “For many, it’s their first time in a community of this size. Typically, there’s an appreciation for the farms and the seemingly slower pace of life. There’s a quaintness to our town that they enjoy.” 

The historic Eagles Theatre in Wabash has been fully renovated.

The Marckx sisters had never heard of Wabash before applying, but on the conclusion of the Resonance program, which they participated in, they got the chance to perform at the restored Eagles Theatre.

Gatchel says the new theatre has created a dynamic space, not only for the Academy, but also for a variety of programs the Honeywell Center hosts, spanning rock, gospel, pop, and country music. 

As the pandemic subsides in 2021, she is thankful for the Arts Academy and other programs drawing visitors back to Wabash to make use of Honeywell's world-class amenities.

Members of the 2021 Soundboard program of the Honeywell Arts Academy study with renowned faculty.

While the new Arts Academy brings many benefits to Northeast Indiana and to the global music community, Meyer suggests that its greatest rewards might be felt among the faculty themselves.

“I may be the one to get the most out of it,” he says. “I feel like a kid again at the highest level of summer camp!”

Learn more

More information and a full list of Honeywell Arts Academy faculty can be found at honeywellartsacademy.org.

Tickets for the Wabass performance on June 28 are available on the website at honeywellartsacademy.org.

To check out summer offerings at Eagles Theatre, visit honeywellarts.org.