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  • Chuck Surack, founder and CEO of Sweetwater, talks about a social media campaign to raise awareness of the importance of music programs. (Photos by Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette)

  • Announcing the fundraising campaign and introducing Memorial Park Middle School performers are, from left, Paul Spoelhof, Tom Borne and Pamela Kelly at Sweetwater Sound on Wednesday.

Thursday, November 14, 2019 1:00 am

Instruments of change

Sweetwater founder starts final push to reach FWCS goal

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

A campaign to pay for the purchase of 5,000 instruments for Fort Wayne Community Schools students is nearing its $2 million goal. 

And Chuck Surack is hoping the dulcet tones of a soprano saxophone help put the effort over the finish line. 

Surack, the founder of Sweetwater Sound and its president, used the instrument Wednesday to play “Hot Cross Buns” at the company's headquarters as part of a kickoff event for “I'm With the Band” – a social media-driven push to raise $300,000 to meet the campaign goal for the district's “b instrumental” program. 

He and organizers said they hope others will play their own version of the song and upload it to social media sites. 

“I think it's so important to get instruments into the hands of young people,” said Surack, 62, who began playing saxophone in fifth grade. “If I hadn't started playing a music instrument, there would be no Sweetwater.”

The “b instrumental” program offers instruments to middle schoolers and allows students to keep them through high school. Started in 2016 by the Fort Wayne Community Schools Foundation at three schools, it has grown to include each of the district's 11 middle schools.  More than 400 students are participating, and program director Bruce Schneider said 568 instruments so far have been purchased. 

“We feel that music and the arts is beneficial to educating the entire child,” he said. “This program is part of that.”

Participants attend school at higher rates than their peers, and “their rates of disciplinary consequences are lower than other students,” according to a news release. 

“This program is working,” said Tom Borne, FWCS Foundation board president. “It is working well.”

Nick Heller, a Memorial Park Middle School student, called the program “really awesome” as he carefully placed his tenor saxophone in its case after playing Wednesday at Sweetwater. 

“(b instrumental) made me want to play it much more,” he said. 

Donations are accepted through the foundation website, fwcsfoundation.org.

mleblanc@jg.net