Chuck Surack

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Chuck Surack is an American entrepreneur, businessman, philanthropist, and musician, best known as the founder of Sweetwater Sound, a leading retailer of musical instruments and professional audio equipment.[1][2]


Surack was born in Waverly, Ohio, his family later relocating to Fort Wayne, Indiana. He attended Wayne High School and played saxophone in the school's marching band. He was also active in the Boy Scouts.[3] Following high school, Surack toured with a band as a saxophone player and keyboardist.[4] In 1979 Surack decided to stop touring, and returned to his hometown of Fort Wayne, creating a mobile 4-track recording studio housed in a Volkswagen Bus. This studio would eventually become Sweetwater Sound. Surack still plays saxophone and keyboard as part of two bands, Prime Time[5] and the Sweetwater All Stars [6]

Surack has cited his father, Jim, a chemical engineer and airplane pilot, as a major influence.[7] Surack is married, and has two stepsons and a daughter, Adderly (whose name was influenced by the name of saxophonist Cannonball Adderley).[8]


Sweetwater Sound[edit]

When Surack stopped touring with his band he returned to his home town of Fort Wayne, Indiana and converted his Volkswagen Bus into a mobile 4-track recording studio. He later established a recording studio in his home and named it Sweetwater Sound. In 1985, he purchased a Kurzweil K250 for use in the studio and reverse engineered it in order to develop and use sounds of his own design, establishing Surack as an expert within the K250 community. Sweetwater Sound was eventually selling K250 sound libraries and became established as a Kurzweil K250 reseller. Being part of the small professional K250 community allowed Surack to develop relationships and work with artists such as Kenny Rogers and Stevie Wonder. Sweetwater began selling more and more pro audio equipment, and eventually Sweetwater's retail business surpassed its recording studio business.[9][10] By 2016, Sweetwater had become the largest online retailer of music instruments and equipment in the U.S.[11] Surack remains President and CEO of Sweetwater Sound, Inc..

Other Business Ventures[edit]

SweetCars In February 2010, Surack submitted a proposal to convert an abandoned building on Jefferson Boulevard in Fort Wayne into a luxury car dealership. The Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission agreed to transfer the property to Surack in exchange for Surack's financial commitment to improve the property to open and operate the dealership.[12][13] The car dealership, SweetCars, opened in December, 2011.[14]

All Pro Sound In January 2011, Surack acquired the assets of Pensacola, Florida-based audio/video systems integrator and musical instrument retailer All Pro Sound, which operates independently of Surack's other business ventures.[15] In August of the same year, Surack acquired the assets of Smith Field Air Services and established Sweet Aviation, a Fort Wayne flight school.[16]

Indiana Helicopters In 2012, Surack founded Indiana Helicopters, a charter helicopter service based in Goshen, Indiana.[17]

Longe Optical In September 2012, Surack purchased the assets of Longe Optical, a Fort Wayne-based optical business with 5 storefronts.[18]

Helimotion In 2014, Surack purchased Helimotion, an aerial film production and executive charter service based in Chicago. [19]

Mynett Music In 2015, Surack purchased Mynett Music Company, a music retailer established in Fort Wayne in 1933 and focused on providing music instruments, lessons, and repair services for students and school music programs.[20]

Aviation Specialty Insurance Formerly known as Corporate Aviation Insurance Group (CAIG), Aviation Specialty Insurance provides general aviation insurance services.[21] [22]


Surack and his wife contribute to more than 500 nonprofit organizations annually.[23] Past charitable donations have included the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music,[24] Arts United of Fort Wayne,[25] the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra,[26] Easter Seals ARC of Northeast Indiana,[27] and the Voices of Unity Youth Choir.[28] Surack and his wife also established the Chuck and Lisa Surack Endowed Scholarship for Music Technology at the University of Saint Francis.[29]

Surack has served on the boards of Greater Fort Wayne, Inc., WBNI/WBOI Public Radio, Unity Performing Arts Foundation,[30] the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Tower Bank, the National Association of Music Merchants[31] and other organizations. He is currently a board member for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra, Easter Seals ARC of Northeast Indiana, the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo[32] (where he was previously Board President), the Boy Scouts of America Advisory Board, and Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Office of Development.[33]

In July 2017, Surack resigned as a Board Member from Lutheran Health Network amid allegations of improper management by Community Health Systems, Inc.[34], the corporate owner of the hospital system. In a letter to Community Health Systems leaders, Surack stated, “I cannot agree with or condone what has happened to so many great people in our hospitals.” Surack said he believes actions taken by CHS were not in the best interest of the Fort Wayne community.


  • 1997 Ernst and Young 1997 Northern Indiana Entrepreneur Of The Year[35]
  • 2008 BCA 10 Award presented by the Business Committee of the Arts, in recognition of corporate support of the arts[36]
  • 2008 Appleseed Award presented by Representative Mark Souder in recognition of the inclusion of numerous environmentally-friendly features at Sweetwater Sound's campus[37]
  • 2009 Governor's Arts Award, presented by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels in recognition of ongoing commitment to and support of the arts.
  • 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award awarded by the University of St. Francis School of Creative Arts for integrating electronic music instrument technologies, computers and traditional music practices into a modern art and science[38]
  • 2009 Lugar Energy Patriot awarded by Indiana Senator Dick Lugar in recognition of leadership and initiative in taking action to improve America's energy security and promoting sustainable energy production and use.[39]
  • 2012 Doctorate of Humane Letters from Indiana University
  • 2012 Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of St. Francis[40]
  • 2013 Inducted into the Indiana Academy by the Independent Colleges of Indiana for lifetimes of achievement and contribution to the state of Indiana[41]
  • 2014 Leaders of Character Award from the Anthony Wayne Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America[42]
  • 2015 Maclyn Parker Swagger Award by Greater Fort Wayne[43]
  • 2015 Red Coat recipient from Mad Anthony Children's Foundation for recognition of accomplishments that help make Fort Wayne and the state of Indiana a better place[44]
  • 2015 Citizen of the Year from the Journal Gazette[45]
  • 2016 Lion Award by the Fort Wayne Urban League for immense community contributions and accolades[46]
  • 2017 Legends of Leadership Award from the editors of Fort Wayne Business Weekly[47]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Top 200 Music Products Retailers," The Music Trades, Aug 2013, p. 62
  2. ^ "Global Retail Snapshot," The Music Trades, May 2013, p. 67
  3. ^ Frank Alkyer, "Sweet Success", Music Inc., Dec 2012
  4. ^ "Harmonic Convergence: Sweetwater's Success Empowers Others", University of Saint Francis Alumni Magazine, Fall 2012
  5. ^ Michael Summers, "Cookies, Comics, and Chords", Fort Wayne Reader, Jun, 2007
  6. ^ Blomquist, Jennifer. "Sweetwater All Stars". Business People. Retrieved 18 May 2017. 
  7. ^ Bonnie Blackburn, "20 Questions: Chuck Surack", Fort Wayne Monthly, Aug 2013
  8. ^ Kevin M. Mitchell,"Sweetwater's Chuck Surack", Front of House Online, Apr 2009
  9. ^ Matt Ottinger, "Sweet Sounds of Success: Music World Takes Note of Fort Wayne Company," BizVoice, Mar/Apr 2008, pp 50-2
  10. ^ Michael Summers, "Sweetwater's 3rd annual GearFest is paradise for musicians", Fort Wayne Reader, Aug 04
  11. ^ "Ranking The World's Top Online Retailers" (Volume 164, No. 7). The Music Trades Corporation. Aug 2016. 
  12. ^ Sherry Slater, "Love Of Cars Revs Up Titans", Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, April, 2010
  13. ^ Benjamin Lanka, "Luxury Car Lot Planned at Ex-Ford Dealership", Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Feb 2010
  14. ^ Adam Widener, "SweetCars Brings Luxury to Fort Wayne", Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Dec 2010
  15. ^ Bob Caylor, "Sweetwater Owner Buyers Florida Music Business", Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, Feb 2011
  16. ^ Bob Caylor, "Sweetwater Owner Takes To The Air", News-Sentinel, Aug 2011
  17. ^ Justin Leighty, "Goshen Company Keeps Business Up In The Air",, Feb 2013
  18. ^ "Chuck Surack Expands His Business Portfolio, Purchases Longe Optical", Scott Sarvay, Indiana News Center, Sep 2012
  19. ^ "DHL Chooses Helimotion to Provide Air Delivery to Downtown Chicago from O'Hare Airport". Retrieved 18 May 2017. 
  20. ^ Wissmuller, Christian (8 December 2015). "Sweetwater's Surack Purchases Mynett Music". MMR Timeless Communications. Retrieved 15 January 2016. 
  21. ^ Epstein, Curt. "Corporate Aviation Insurance Group Rebrands". Aviation International News Publications. Retrieved 18 May 2017. 
  22. ^ "Entrepreneur Building One of the Largest Helicopter Fleets in the Midwest". MHM Publishing. Retrieved 18 May 2017. 
  23. ^ "Citizen of the year: Chuck Surack". Journal Gazette. 27 December 2015. Retrieved 15 January 2016. 
  24. ^ Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Events Program, 2013
  25. ^ "Sweetwater Founder Supports Local Arts, Music Trades, Oct 2012, p. 54
  26. ^ Embassy Annual Report, 2012, p. 12
  27. ^ "Suracks give $150K endowment to Easter Seals Arc", Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly, Jun 2013
  28. ^ Keiara Carr "Voices of Unity's fund drive begins with $50,000 gift", Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Nov, 2013
  29. ^ "Harmonic Convergence: Sweetwater's Success Empowers Others", University of Saint Francis Alumni Magazine, Fall 2012, p. 7
  30. ^ History of Fort Wayne & Allen County, Indiana, vol. 2 M.T. Publishing Company, Inc., 2006, p. 280
  31. ^ "NAMM Nominates New Board", Music Inc., Jan 2010
  32. ^ Board of Directors - Fort Wayne Children's Zoo
  33. ^ Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, Spring 2012
  34. ^ [1]
  35. ^ Sweet Notes, Summer 1997
  36. ^ BCA Top 10 Award, Mix Online, Jan 2009
  37. ^ "Sweetwater founder gets Appleseed Award", The Journal Gazette, Jul 2008.
  38. ^ Matt Ottinger, "Fort Wayne Businessman Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award", Indiana Chamber Business Blog, Sep 2009
  39. ^ "Sweetwater Leader Receives Lugar Award",, June, 2009
  40. ^ "Spring Commencement Held for USF Graduates", University of Saint Francis Alumni Newsletter, Jun 2012
  41. ^ "Indiana Academy Inducting Four Leaders", Inside Indiana Business, Apr 2013
  42. ^ "Mike Eikenberry, Chuck Surack to be honored Feb 12th by local Boy Scouts", News-Sentinel, Feb 2014
  43. ^ Caylor, Bob. "Surack honored with Swagger Award at Greater Fort Wayne meeting". Fort Wayne Newspapers. Retrieved 18 May 2017. 
  44. ^ Crandall, Kayla (August 4, 2015). "Sweetwater Sound's Chuck Surack is Mad Anthony's Red Coat winner 2015". 21Alive. Retrieved 15 January 2016. 
  45. ^ "Citizen of the year: Chuck Surack". Journal Gazette. December 27, 2015. Retrieved 15 January 2016. 
  46. ^ "The Scene: 2016 Fort Wayne Urban League Gala Extravaganza". Michiana Business Publications. Retrieved 18 May 2017. 
  47. ^ Ferrisi, Dan. "Surack Receives Legends of Leadership Award". Testa Communications. Retrieved 18 May 2017. 

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