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 website.
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: firstname_lastname at sweetwater dot com.
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 he graduated from 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 artists such as Stevie Wonder, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Aerosmith, and many others. Working with these 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 dream to provide unmatched customer service and expertise — 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, as well as the number one online retailer of music instruments and pro-audio gear in the nation.
Additionally, he owns 10 businesses, including SweetCars, Sweet Aviation, and Longe Optical. He is a frequent speaker and mentor on issues from entrepreneurship to quality customer service and the pursuit of excellence.
Chuck is very involved in community service and strongly believes in giving back. He currently serves on the boards of Lutheran Health Network and Lutheran Hospital, the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, and Greater Fort Wayne Inc., among others. He is also a member of Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry’s kitchen cabinet.
He and his wife Lisa are leading philanthropists in the Fort Wayne area, donating to more than 500 causes annually. The Association of Fundraising Professionals gave them the Outstanding Philanthropic Award in 2015.
In 2009, Chuck received the BCA 10 Award from the Business Council for the Arts, a national award recognizing support of the arts. In 2010, he received the Governor’s Arts Award from Governor Mitch Daniels. Indiana University and the University of St. Francis each presented him with a Doctorate of Humane Letters in 2012. In 2013 he was inducted into the Indiana Colleges for his lifetime achievement and contribution to the state of Indiana. In 2014. he received the Leaders of Character award from the Boy Scouts of America, and the Bel Award from Junior Achievement. In 2015, Greater Fort Wayne Inc. presented him with the Swagger Award, and the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette named him the Fort Wayne Citizen of the Year. In January of 2015, Sweetwater was featured on the cover of Mix Magazine.
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.
John Hopkins came to Sweetwater in 1992 having been a devoted 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 and later 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 to come work for Sweetwater. John started as a Sales Engineer and soon took 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 website. John became more and more involved in the day-to-day operations of Sweetwater, including finance, human resources, fulfillment, service, and marketing. 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. He has overseen three major building projects since the spring of 2014, including the expansion of the sales and shipping areas, the expansion of the Downbeat Diner, including the addition of a performance stage combined with a coffee shop, and the complete redesign and expansion of Sweetwater’s Music Store.
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 three grandchildren.
Jeff Radke 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 product lines such 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 AKG. In addition to his extensive management experience, Jeff is a highly skilled sales professional. He strongly believes in Sweetwater's philosophy of relationship-based consultative sales and is actively involved in advancing the company's core culture of doing everything possible to add value and continually doing the right thing for our customers. Jeff has been instrumental in implementing and expanding the company's training programs and refining sales processes. He considers one of his primary responsibilities to be identifying and recruiting outstanding sales professionals. He is deeply engaged on a day-to-day basis with developing and maintaining strong relationships with Sweetwater's vendors.
Jeff and his wife, Linda, have two daughters and a son. He likes investing in the local community by serving on nonprofit boards, volunteering, and being involved on various church committees. Jeff plays guitar and saxophone and can regularly be found in his home studio writing and recording music. He loves spending time with his family and enjoys playing and watching tennis and other sports. He also enjoys hunting, fishing, reading, traveling, writing, and watching the Green Bay Packers.
David Stewart was promoted to his current top leadership position in April, 2016. He joined Sweetwater in 1992 as a Sales Engineer before becoming Service Department Manager. Under his leadership, the service department became an authorized service center for most of the company's product lines.
In 1998, he became Creative Marketing Director and helped drive the publishing of the company’s first catalogs, including the industry-standard ProGear Directory. He also oversaw the initial versions of the Sweetwater website (including its e-commerce component), and developed a partner marketing strategy with manufacturers and vendors. He returned to the Sales Department as a manager in early 2001 and was made Senior V.P. of Sales in 2013. He played a key role in the expansion of the department to more than 300 Sales Engineers, helped lead the training and education of new Sales Engineers, and kept the entire sales department current on new developments in music technology. Over the years, he has been a constant advisor and contributor in the development of the company’s marketing strategies. His leadership has contributed to annual sales growth of between 20 and 30 percent over the years. He has extensive customer service, sales, and technical experience, including a diverse background as a touring musician and live sound/recording engineer. In 1987, he left touring to open a recording studio in Louisville, which he still owns. He studied electronics at the University of Louisville and worked in two music stores before moving to Fort Wayne to work at Sweetwater. He is an instructor in live sound production at the music technology program at Indiana University/Purdue University Fort Wayne. He’s been married to his wife Liane for 14 years.
As Senior Vice President of E-commerce, Mike Clem leads Sweetwater's web team and digital marketing strategy. Since joining the company in 2003, Mike has played a key role in driving Sweetwater's online growth and ensuring that customers have a great experience on the website. Sweetwater.com is respected as one of the first and largest websites in the music industry, and continues to be recognized for innovative new features and trusted product information.
Mike is a graduate of Purdue University. His background in web development began in the earliest days of the Internet and includes many notable retail brands. Mike is a lifelong musician and a Fort Wayne native. He is active in his church and community, along with his wife Jill and their four children.
Greg Clark joined the Sweetwater Accounting and Finance team in 2014, was promoted to the position of Senior Vice President of Finance in 2015, and again in 2016 to Senior Vice President and CFO. He has a diverse background in public and corporate accounting, and process development and improvement. He is responsible for corporate financial planning, reporting, and analysis, treasury management, and risk management.
Clark is a Certified Public Accountant and a graduate of Indiana University's Kelley School of Business with Bachelors' Degrees in Accounting and Computer Information Systems. He began his career with KPMG LLP in Raleigh, NC. Prior to joining Sweetwater, he served as Internal Audit Director for medical device manufacturer Symmetry Medical, Inc., in Warsaw, Indiana.
Greg is a Fort Wayne native, very involved in the community through his service on multiple non-profit boards and committees, and he plays a leadership role in his church. Greg and his wife Erin have two daughters, Emily and Hannah.
Doug Wood joined the Sweetwater Senior Executive team in 2017. He has held high-level positions in banking, finance, and accounting over a 30-year career, most recently serving as PNC Bank Regional President for Northern Indiana since 2012. He holds a B.S. in Finance from Ball State University and an MBA from Western Michigan University. In his role at Sweetwater, Doug works closely with COO John Hopkins on projects and initiatives related to the company’s ongoing growth, and assists with aspects of the company’s finances.
Doug has had significant community board involvement and service with non-profits and economic development groups, including Board Chair for both Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne and Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana, as well as serving on the boards of the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, United Way of Allen County, and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership Fund.
He grew up and has lived primarily in the Northern Indiana region his entire life. Doug briefly lived and worked in the Loop in Chicago prior to moving back to Indiana and Fort Wayne, and enjoys traveling to major cities. He is very family-oriented and has three adult children, Nathan, Brianna, and Jonathan. His wife Elise is a preschool teacher.
Phil Rich is an 18 year veteran of the music industry with incredibly broad experience in music industry retail sales, training, merchandising, purchasing, marketing, and management. His primary role at Sweetwater is working with his team to determine what products the company offers.
Before joining Sweetwater in 2011, Phil spent 14 years working at Guitar Center as vice president of merchandising and in other roles including district sales manager and director of training. He served on the NAMM board from 2008 to 2011. Prior to working at Guitar Center, Phil was in the US Navy for 8 years including a year at sea aboard USS Midway during Desert Shield/Storm, and later as a guitarist for the Navy Band.
Phil has significant experience as an audio engineer and is a graduate of the University of Washington's audio production program. He’s an experienced professional musician and regularly performs in Fort Wayne. His passion for aviation led him to become an instrument-rated pilot. He volunteers regularly with the local EAA Young Eagles program, bringing the experience of flight to local youth.
Troy Hartman has filled many different roles during his tenure at Sweetwater. He joined the company in 1994 as a technician in the service center. He moved up to 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 experience in so many departments at Sweetwater made Troy an excellent choice as a manager in the Sales Department, where he has served since 2001. Troy plays keyboards, bass, and drums.
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 quadrupling of Sweetwater's work force to 900 employees. He also facilitates the development of the company's high-performance culture, both formulating company policy and acting as social director.
Jeff has a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from DePauw University. Prior to joining Sweetwater, he had a distinguished 30-year career with Sears, running many large stores that received numerous regional and national awards, including several stores that were named "Store of the Year" by the chain. Jeff is a life-long musician and has recorded nine 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 65 gigs a year. His wife Sheryl is a vice president at a successful advertising agency and a talented interior decorator.
Mike Lentine joined Sweetwater in May 2007. His experience in the music industry comes from owning and operating a 5-store chain of musical instrument stores in the Cleveland, Ohio area for 30 years. A passion of his during that time was continually keeping his company on the cutting edge of technology to improve the company's efficiency and the customer's experience. The company was acquired by Sweetwater in 2007 and Mike joined Sweetwater as the director of Information Technology. Mike is in charge of all of the information systems at Sweetwater, including networks, wireless, more than 1000 computers, servers, and network security. Mike also leads the team that develops the custom software used in daily operations to track sales, inventory, and customer information, in addition to the company's warehouse distribution software. The Information Technology team is comprised of highly skilled and talented developers and administrators that keep Sweetwater on the cutting edge.
Joining Sweetwater in 2016, Salena Scardina is charged with identifying opportunities at all levels of the company to enhance Sweetwater's already outstanding customer service.
She is exceptionally well qualified for this position, with over 20 years of experience in customer engagement, satisfaction, and insights. Salena served in a similar position for four years at Vera Bradley. Previously, she spent 15 years at McDonald's Corporation, driving toward a world-class experience for the customer and presenting a unified view of the customer experience to the organization.
She is closely engaged with every department in the company. Her focus is to establish goals and progress measurements while serving as a direct conduit for customers to provide feedback on their Sweetwater experiences.
Salena earned her undergraduate degree from Monmouth College and holds an MBA from Benedictine University. She resides in Fort Wayne with her husband, John, and two children.
Sweetwater’s dynamic and innovative partner marketing department is led by Michael Ross, who joined Sweetwater in 2005. Mike brings nearly 20 years of marketing experience to the position. He 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 lifelong musician and songwriter and is a partner in a professional studio in western Texas. He has three children.
Thad Tegtmeyer joined Sweetwater in 2008 and has managed a variety of departments during his tenure with the company. He currently oversees Sweetwater's music store, community outreach, and artist relations. His focus is on providing unparalleled customer experiences for visitors to the Sweetwater campus, fostering music events and musicianship in the regional community, and involving national artists in the numerous musical programs presented at Sweetwater. Thad earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Business from Virginia Military Institute, where he also played varsity basketball as a Division I scholarship athlete. Prior to coming to Sweetwater, Thad owned and managed a sales organization representing independent Swiss watch manufacturers in North America. He started in music instrument retail by managing a guitar store in Fort Wayne for a number of years. He later went on to become a District Sales Manager for Fender Musical Instruments in the Midwest.
Thad and his wife Michelle have three sons. They are active in their church and the local community. Thad serves on multiple non-profit boards that support the Fort Wayne community and its citizens. He plays guitar as often as he can, enjoys fly fishing, competitive sports, and spending time with his family most of all.
Since joining the Sweetwater team in 1994, Tony Strickler has overseen a tremendous amount of growth in the business office. Tony manages all aspects of Sweetwater’s accounting department, including credit and collections, payables, and payroll. Originally from Northern Indiana, Tony holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Ball State University. He enjoys travel, golf, and motor sports during his free time. Tony also serves on several nonprofit boards and is very active in his church.
David Klausner joined Sweetwater in 1998 as a Sales Engineer. Prior to coming to Sweetwater, he owned and operated a commercial studio. As an engineer he began as a kid with a four track, then one day found himself sitting behind Neve and SSL consoles in major studios. As a musician, he has played everywhere from bars to big stages, performing in front of thousands. His experience as a customer in a wide variety of audio situations, coupled with his technical knowledge and years of providing customer service, gives him unique insight into selling gear the Sweetwater way. He is heavily involved in training and coaching new Sales Engineers, teaches a number of classes in Sweetwater University, including vintage and high-end gear classes, and still gigs and records regularly.
Doug Strahm was one of Sweetwater's very first customers, recording his own songs and local jingles on Sweetwater's 1/2" 8-track recorder in Chuck Surack's basement. He came to work for Sweetwater in 1999 after many years in the food service industry and was the owner/operator of a critically acclaimed Italian restaurant, Strahmboli's. Originally hired as the Client Amazement Specialist, Doug has also managed the Service Department, then the Warehouse, and is now in charge of all the facilities on the Sweetwater campus. He also oversees Sweetwater's Downbeat Diner, and manages the overall planning of Sweetwater's annual GearFest event. He is an award-winning songwriter with two albums available everywhere online, an amazing cook and very accomplished in the home remodeling field.
Brian Randol came to Sweetwater in 2001 and brings 32 years of distribution and transportation experience to the position. He leads the Distribution Center team, which operates 7 days a week to ensure the fastest shipping in the industry. Brian attended Indiana/Purdue University Fort Wayne, and began his career in distribution working at UPS as a driver supervisor and industrial engineer manager. He also worked with an intermodal transportation company. With this experience, Brian brings a great understanding of supply chain logistics and the effects on customer service, which is the most important element of the Sweetwater Difference. Continual improvement is always at the forefront of Brian's vision. In his leisure time, he enjoys spending time with his family and attending any and all sporting events, especially the Indianapolis Colts and his grandchildren's ball games and soccer matches.
Christopher Guerin joined Sweetwater in 2006. He handles all press relations for Sweetwater, including local and national outlets, plus the music industry press. He oversees Sweetwater's video department, and, working with other departments, helps with business development, special projects, and partnerships with outside companies and organizations. He also manages Corporate Public Involvement, Sweetwater's donation and sponsorship program, which provides funds and gear for hundreds of nonprofits in northeast Indiana. He is a community representative for Sweetwater, serving on six local nonprofit boards, including the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission, where he’s been president since 2005. A 26-year veteran of the symphony orchestra field, he was President of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic from 1985–2005. His wife and two daughters are all accomplished visual artists.
Roger Hitzfield joined Sweetwater in 1995. He began his Sweetwater career with responsibilities in the Accounting and Purchasing Departments, before taking leadership of Sweetwater's Business Office in 1998. Roger has been instrumental in implementing and managing Sweetwater's many payment options, including new, nontraditional methods of payment. He also develops and oversees risk management solutions and policies. He is very passionate about making sure every customer experiences the Sweetwater Difference. Roger is actively involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, where he currently serves on the executive board for the Northeast Indiana Chapter.
Gerson Rosenbloom is responsible for oversight of Sweetwater's various allied businesses. He is a music industry "lifer." He owned Medley Music, a full-line musical instrument retailer in suburban Philadelphia. He has also served on a number of boards, including the American Music Conference, the Technology Institute for Music Education, Harcum University, and NAMM, where he served as chairman of the board. Prior to joining Sweetwater, he was managing director of Wechter Guitars. He is a columnist for Music Inc. magazine, Chairman of The MIDI Association Development Advisory Panel, and a lifelong keyboardist with scores of album credits to his name.
Jeff Ostermann oversees multiple Sweetwater affiliate companies and works with internal Sweetwater departments to improve sales, profitability, and team performance. Jeff holds a degree in finance and international business from Indiana University and an MBA from Taylor University. He began his career in corporate finance working for Nortel Networks and GE. Prior to joining Sweetwater in 2012, Jeff spent 6 years helping lead a private family foundation. In this role, he was responsible for overseeing due diligence and post-investment support for philanthropic and social impact investments across five continents. Because of his social impact investment experience, he carries a deep passion for the power of well-run businesses to be transformative influences in the lives of their employees, customers, and communities.
Jeff loves spending time with his wife Kelly and their four daughters. He is actively involved with Pathway Community Church and serves on the boards of the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission and As Our Own. He is also a former Division I collegiate swimmer and continues to race in U.S. Masters Swimming events and open water competitions.
Jason Johnson has a broad range of experience in enterprise network operations and software development. His primary role at Sweetwater is leading our software development and network operations teams, who are responsible for continuous delivery and innovation of the IT services required to keep Sweetwater on the cutting edge.
Jason joined Sweetwater in 2013 and spent three years as the IT Operations Manager before he was promoted to Vice President. Previously, Jason spent eight years working for the Department of Defense, focused primarily on network security.
Jason holds 19 industry certifications and has a Bachelor's Degree from Western Governors University in Network Design and Managment. Jason loves spending time with his wife Kelsi and their two children, Riley and Logan.
Mike Begala joined Sweetwater in 2013. He leads our Service Department in providing superior customer service and technical support to all of our customers.
Mike has more than 30 years of experience in customer service and technical support, product repair, returns management, refurbishing, and process improvement. Mike served in a similar position for seven years at D&M Holdings, managing service for Denon, Marantz, Boston Acoustics, McIntosh, Calrec, and Allen and Heath. Previously, he spent 7 years at Thomson/RCA where he was charged with leading customer support for one of the world’s largest manufacturers of video, audio, and satellite products for consumers.
Mike earned his undergraduate degree from Indiana Tech and holds an MBA from the Krannert School at Purdue University. He is also an adjunct professor of business at IvyTech Community College and resides in Fort Wayne with his wife, Karen, and their three children. Mike enjoys composing and playing keyboards and has played in jazz bands and drum corps. He also serves on the board of Easter Seals Arc.