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.

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. 

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. 

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.

Kathryn Witkowski

Voice & Piano
Remote Only

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, pop, rock, and heavy metal. She is currently pursuing a Master of Music degree at Belmont University for Vocal Pedagogy

Mike Dodge

Intermediate/Advanced Guitar

Remote Only

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. 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

Jeff ROgers

A/V Team

Drums & Live Sound

Jacob chapman

Assistant Studio Manager, A/V Team

Brass and Piano

Jacob Chapman is a Michigan based multi-instrumentalist and a graduate of Central Michigan University. Jacob graduated with a BM in Trumpet Performance and since then has performed in many different ensembles. (Wind band, orchestra, jazz combo/big band, brass quintet, trumpet ensemble, solo work). Jacob has loved the variety in the different styles and demands that each bring. Jacob strives to be an all around musician by actively studying and expanding his knowledge of repertoire and production of live and recorded music. He has a love for all genres of music, especially jazz, classical, rock, metal, hip hop, eletronic music, folk and others. Jacob also enjoys working in the outdoors, taking care of his house plants and spending time with his family and cats.

Jacob Gordon

Guitar, Bass, A/V Team

Jake is a multi instrumental Triumph student turned teacher with over 15 years of experience playing guitar and bass in Rock/Punk/Metal/Jazz/Classical settings. Constantly striving to be a better performer and artist, Jake is always exploring new music and can find something to enjoy in every genre and specializes in playing math/prog rock and metal music. He was also the first person to join Triumphs A/V team and has worked hundreds of live events and recording sessions as an audio engineer.

Sierra Piersma

Piano, Voice, Guitar, and Ukulele

Sierra Piersma has been a private music teacher for 11 years teaching piano, voice, guitar, and ukulele. She attended Trinity Christian College for music with a focus in music history. She also has a minor in education.

Sierra taught as the music director of the Sandbox Daycare for two years and is in her 4th year of teaching Kindergarten.
She also studied improv at Second City in Chicago and has performed an original composition at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Sierra loves to perform in casual settings but her passion is in teaching music. It is her joy to bring these experiences to you so that you can start or continue your musical journey through Triumph Music Academy.