Meet Our Executive Team
Our executives are intimately involved in the day-to-day operations of their respective departments. They all take great pride in ensuring that Sweetwater's customers receive the best possible service and an outstanding shopping experience, whether via our Sales Engineers or via our Web site.
Our executive team is readily available if you need to contact them. Due to spam problems, we can't list their e-mail addresses here. However, you may e-mail any of our executives directly using the standard Sweetwater e-mail address format: first name_last name at sweetwater.com.
Founder and President
Sweetwater's founder and president, Chuck Surack, was an entrepreneur from an early age — as a child he made and sold pot holders by the hundreds and managed an extensive paper route. After graduating high school, his love of music led him to become a professional saxophonist and keyboard player in touring bands. In 1979, he combined that love of music with his entrepreneurial talents and founded Sweetwater Sound as a 4-track recording studio in the back of his VW bus. Sweetwater Sound quickly grew into a leading studio in the Fort Wayne area. Chuck also turned his technical skills to programming the K250, the revolutionary sampling keyboard from Kurzweil. He gained a national reputation for his skills, and provided custom sound design and recording studio consulting to such artists as Stevie Wonder, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Aerosmith, and many others. In working with these and many other artists, he recognized a need for a music and pro audio retailer that was different from the standard music store. The retail division of Sweetwater arose from his idea of providing unmatched customer service and support — two things he found lacking in the retailers he dealt with when purchasing gear for his own studio. Under his leadership, Sweetwater has experienced explosive growth and has become one of the most respected companies in the industry.
Chuck is very involved in community service and believes strongly in giving back. He serves numerous professioal and non-profit organizations including the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo, Lutheran Hospital, Easter Seals Arc, NAMM, the University of St. Francis, and many others. Chuck is an active musician, playing saxophone and keyboards at about 70 gigs each year. He loves flying and can often be found at the helm of a helicopter. He and his wife Lisa have two sons and a daughter.
Executive Vice President and COO
John Hopkins, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, came to Sweetwater in 1992 after being a customer of the company for many years. John attended the University of Delaware and began his career working with a mechanical contractor in 1978 as a programmer then as the IT director. His systems experience allowed him to eventually become vice president of finance and CFO at one of the 100 largest mechanical contractors in the United States. In 1987 he purchased an HVAC service business and was owner and president of that company until he sold it in late 1992 in order to come work for Sweetwater. John started as a Sales Engineer and progressed to having responsibility for all of Sweetwater's growing IT and phone systems. He established the company's first connection to the Internet and designed and set up the original Sweetwater.com web site. John became more and more involved in the day-to-day operations of Sweetwater, including finance, human resources, fulfillment, service, and marketing and in 1996, he became vice president of operations. During 2006 and 2007 John was intimately involved in the construction of Sweetwater's new campus and in 2011 became the company's COO.
John's wife Dawn is a classical pianist and worship leader at their church, where he runs sound using equipment purchased from Sweetwater. They have two children and two grandchildren.
Executive Vice President of Sales and CSO
Jeff Radke, Executive Vice President of Sales and Chief Sales Officer, was recruited to Sweetwater in 1996 after establishing a successful career in the music/professional audio industry. He holds a degree in Music Business and Recording Technology from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Prior to joining Sweetwater, Jeff was the manager of the pro audio division of West L.A. Music in Los Angeles, California, until he was hired by AKG Acoustics in 1987. After AKG was purchased by Harman Pro, Jeff served as regional manager for such product lines as JBL Professional, Soundcraft, dbx, BSS, Turbosound, Orban, UREI and Quested. He was subsequently promoted to Director of Sales for the United States and Mexico for the AKG brand, a leading manufacturer of microphones, headphones and other professional audio-related products. Jeff is a highly skilled sales professional and believes strongly in Sweetwater's philosophy of relationship-based consultative sales. He has been instrumental in implementing and expanding the company's training programs and refining sales processes, and has aided the company in identifying and recruiting outstanding sales professionals.
Chief Financial Officer
Chief Financial Officer Marc Leveridge joined Sweetwater in 1998, bringing with him 18 years of experience in the professional audio equipment industry. During that time, he held the position of controller with Altec Lansing, a global leader in professional audio manufacturing, where he managed financial operations. Marc also spent time with Harman Pro, the parent company of a number of Sweetwater's important vendors, where he held the position of General Manager/Vice President, Finance. Marc's understanding of the financial side of the pro audio industry, including his appreciation of the financial role in providing customer service, has made him an indispensable part of the Sweetwater management team as the company has continued to expand. Marc has bachelor and MBA degrees in accounting. In his leisure time, he enjoys family, travel, and sports, in particular, spending time with his grandson, Cordell.
Vice President of Marketing
Sweetwater's Creative Marketing Department is led by Michael Ross, Vice President of Marketing. Mike brings nearly 20 years of marketing experience to the position, having served as Account Director for Sanders, Wingo, Galvin & Morton Advertising, Inc., and Director of the Office of University Communications for the University of Texas at El Paso. Prior to his position at the University of Texas, Mike was an owner/partner in his own firm, Enriquez, Enriquez, and Ross Advertising, located in El Paso, Texas. He is a life-long musician and songwriter, and is a partner in a professional studio in western Texas.
Vice President of Merchandising
Phil Rich, Vice President of Merchandising and the newest member of our executive team, joins Sweetwater with an unusually broad base of experience in music industry retail sales, training, merchandising, purchasing, marketing, and management. Before joining Sweetwater, Phil worked at Guitar Center as a district sales manager, director of training, and director of merchandising before being promoted to Vice President of Guitars. Phil has served on the NAMM board, has significant experience as an audio engineer and is a graduate of the University of Washington's audio production program. He also brings experience as a professional musician, having been a member of the US Navy Band. Phil also loves flying and travels often as his own pilot.
Vice President of Sales
David Stewart, Vice President of Sales, originally joined Sweetwater in 1992 as a Sales Engineer before becoming manager of Sweetwater's Service Department. Under his leadership the Service Department became an authorized service center for most of the company's product lines. In 1998 he became Director of Creative Marketing, returning to the Sales Department as a manager in early 2001. David plays a key role in training and educating new Sales Engineers and in keeping the entire Sales Department current on new developments in music technology. He has extensive customer service and technical experience with a degree in electronics and a background as a touring musician and live sound/recording engineer. He owns a commercial recording studio in Louisville, Kentucky.
Vice President of Sales
Vice President of Sales Troy Hartman has played many different roles during his tenure at Sweetwater. Troy joined the company in 1994 as a technician in the service center. He then became an administrator in the Service Department and was responsible for supervising customer support representatives and coordinating warranty reimbursements with product manufacturers. He served as Director of Purchasing from 1997 to 2001. His involvement in so many different aspects of Sweetwater made Troy an excellent choice as a manager in the Sales Department, where he has served for ten years. Troy plays bass and keyboards in his church's praise band.
Vice President of Human Resources
As Vice President of Human Resources, Jeff McDonald is charged with finding great talent from all over the world to help fuel Sweetwater's amazing growth. Since coming to the company in late 2005, Jeff has helped orchestrate the doubling of Sweetwater's work force to well over 400 employees. He also facilitates the development of the company's high-performance culture, both formulating company policy and acting as social director. Prior to joining Sweetwater, Jeff had a distinguished 30-year career with Sears, running many large stores that received numerous regional and national awards, including three stores that were named "Store of the Year" by the chain. Jeff is a life-long musician and has recorded seven Americana albums. In fact, he was one of Sweetwater's earliest studio customers, back in 1981. He has shared the stage with a number of legendary recording artists in the folk music genre and plays a standing gig every week.