Triumph Music Academy is a musical collective. Our teachers, each professional musicians in their own right, teach you how to make music a part of your life.

James Hughes

Studio Director & Owner

Guitar, Bass, Ukulele, Piano, Songwriting, Recording, Artist Development, Live Sound, & Student Bands

Drawing from his own experience touring, recording, and songwriting, he started teaching his students not just how to play music, but how to do music—how to balance a group, how to engineer sound, how to prepare a performance. Before long, he had amassed a following.


Voice, Guitar, Bass, Ukulele, & Songwriting

Chris has been playing guitar for half of his life and performing for over a decade. Initially taking lessons himself, Chris is primarily a self-taught guitarist. He performs as a solo artist and with various groups throughout the state. Utilizing knowledge and techniques he’s gathered over the years, Chris teaches the basics of tablature, chords, scales, and songwriting, as well as improvising, learning by ear, and finding one’s unique musical voice.

Khari Neal

Voice & Piano

Khari Neal is a graduate of Cornerstone University. Since a young age, he has always had a passion for music and performing. His experience of continual artistry culminates from being simultaneously involved with faith-based and educational facilities. Being a transplant to Grand Rapids, he has participated in many productions presented by local theaters and organizations. He desires to actively perform but more importantly, inspire and influence the next generation while advocating for the necessity of art. 

BRandon Hill

Drums, DJ & EDM Production

Brandon Hill is a Grand Rapids, MI born and raised multi-instrumentalist (drums / percussion / piano / guitar / bass / viola / synthesis), DJ and producer. Working primarily in the areas of drums/percussion and electronic music, Brandon plays in several actively touring bands and solo projects, as well as does remix and production work for a range of artists and labels. He also currently works as a sales rep for Fantastique Distribution, and worked for many years as a buyer for the local record shop, Vertigo Music, and strives to work within a multitude of areas in the music industry. 

Kathryn Witkowski

Assistant Studio Manager
Voice & Piano

Kathryn is a Mid-Michigan native and is a conductor, mezzo-soprano vocalist, and voice teacher in the Grand Rapids area. She has starred in various musical theatre and opera productions, including starring as Cathy Hiatt in CMU Opera Theater’s production of The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown. As a teacher, Kathryn has dedicated her time to studying all facets of vocal pedagogy, and specializes in musical theatre and Commercial Contemporary Music (CCM) styles.

Mike Dodge

Intermediate/Advanced Guitar

Mike Dodge is a widely respected veteran of West Michigan’s music scene. Mike has 25+ years teaching experience teaching privately, for music stores, in classrooms, etc... Along with 30+ years playing experience, he is fluent in many styles, from Rock, Metal, Country, Jazz, Modal, Blues, Raga, Fusion, Basic to Advanced Music Theory/Advanced Techniques, Advanced Fretboard knowledge and more.


Travis Hyma

Guitar, Bass, Ukulele, & Piano

Travis is a recent graduate from Grand Valley with a B.M. in classical guitar performance. During his time at GV, he played in a variety of musical groups including jazz combos, early music, and guitar ensemble. Outside the classroom, Travis has been an active guitar player for over 15 years performing in rock, jazz, R&B, and church bands


Guitar, Synth, & Songwriting

Dan Fisher is a guitarist, songwriter, and producer who has been a part of the Grand Rapids music community for a little over a decade. He's played in numerous bands over the years ranging in all types of music. His passion for music and the community is undisputed and can often be found in the front row of a live show. Outside of music, Dan enjoys cooking, watching movies, taking photos, going for hikes, and riding his bike.


Darren Chan

Violin, Viola, Cello, & Piano

Darren Chan holds a BM from Conservatory of Music at University of the Pacific where he studying under violinist/violist Igor Veligan and MM from Western Michigan University under Renata Knific with a full ride scholarship. He later began studying the viola at the age of twelve under Clara Takarabe and Li-Kuo Chang. Darren has taught violin, viola, cello and piano for many years to student age ranges from 5 to 30 at Central Valley Youth Symphony, Zion Music Academy, Cazadero Music Camp, and privately.

Sallie Bacon

Bass & Viola

JOhn Gist

Saxophone & Electronic Wind Instrument

John Gist, born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI. Mr. Gist is an alto, tenor, and soprano, saxophonist who has mastered a wide variety of musical styles which include Jazz, Funk, Blues, R&B, Gospel.

Jeff ROgers

Drums & Live Sound