Honeywell Arts Academy is a program of international reach. However, it is not uncommon for the question “Why Wabash?” to arise when telling industry professionals as well as supporters and friends about the Academy experience.
Traditionally speaking, double bassists as they compare with other instrumentalists, do not always get equal playing time at summer institutes. This left double bass faculty mentors Eric Larson, Ranaan Meyer, and Hal Robinson searching for a better scenario, an idealistic situation. They began brainstorming about what this would look like. An experience devoted to the double bass with a 3:1 teacher to student ratio, all expenses paid except travel, basically a space to “geek out” over the bass.
Meyer, double bassist in string trio Time for Three, had shared with his bandmates that this was something he was looking to start with Larson and Robinson. While Time for Three was on tour in Indiana one of the violinists said to Ranaan;
“I think you’re going to want to share your double bass program idea with Richard Ford.”
Ranaan was intrigued and went along with the suggestion. He met Richard in Richard’s basement home office and Ranaan proceeded to explain to Richard what they were looking to achieve. Richard’s greatest concern was keeping the program full scholarship as he knew the struggles students faced with large education loans and financial debt. Richard then followed by saying, “and I want to have it here.” This left Ranaan a little confused, as he was unsure how they were going to fit some 15 or so double basses, the musicians themselves, and a piano in his home office but Richard had a chuckle and said, “let me show you around”.
They hopped in his golf cart and Richard proceeded to take Ranaan on a tour of his grounds, the Charley Creek Gardens. A beautiful garden sanctuary with multiple homes located on the property, each one having a nicer piano than the next and it all started coming together. In 2008, the first class of Wabass Institute participants came to Wabash, IN.
Wabass Institute immediately gained notoriety within the bass community and the music world at large, becoming synonymous with other “must attend” music festivals such as Aspen and Tanglewood. In 2014, upon Richard’s passing, the Honeywell Foundation stepped in to ensure this program would continue as they began to steward his legacy.
“I spent many summers at Aspen, and follow what my fellows are doing which is great stuff” says Louis Levitt alumni “but what the Wabass class are doing is at another level.”
In 2020 after 12 years of remarkable success, 95% of alumni continuing on to have successful careers in music proved the importance of Wabass in the industry. As they say, the proof is in the pudding. Conversations about expanding the instrument reach and these ideals were necessary. It was inevitable that this experience needed to be shared to multiple instruments which became a reality in 2021 collectively becoming the Honeywell Arts Academy.
“...the ultimate place to figure out how to sound like yourself.” says alumni Christian Gray
The town of Wabash plays a major role as part of the experience. The opportunity to leave your habitual environment, tune out the noise, and really focus on the task at hand is integral to listening in on who you want to become as a player. To truly immerse yourself in the culture sun up to sun down creates a community that lasts far beyond the week in Wabash.