"There was always this innate need inside of me to play music, even before I ever held an instrument in my hands." Professes James Hughes, owner and at teacher at
. Classed as Grand Rapid's Highest Rated Music School, Triumph welcomes students of all ages. "Music is inside all of us—we just have to let it out and share it."
Rapid Growth Media: When did you decide to turn your talent into a profession?
James Hughes: There was always this innate need inside of me to play music, even before I ever held an instrument in my hands. Imagine a kid mimicking playing guitar with a plastic baseball bat—that was me. I’ve heard other people with this sort of background say that it really wasn’t a choice, which I can relate to. However, I ended up getting into a lot of trouble in my late teens and realized that I needed to commit my life to something positive, so the music really took over from there.
RG: How does Triumph Music Academy
JH: Triumph is essentially a collective of some of West Michigan’s top professional musicians who also have a passion for teaching and passing on the craft. These musicians are made up of touring musicians, session players, songwriters, composers, electronic music artists, recording engineers—you name it! It is a place where people of all ages, both kids and adults, can enrich their lived with music—as a hobby or potential career. We teach to the individual interest of every student, so our instruction is more like mentorship.
RG: What has been your favorite student success story?
JH: It is really hard to choose, since I am so proud of all of our students! I have to say that when Mark Jackson’s student Ja’Leeyna Dooley won GR’s Big Talent
competition, that was pretty incredible! One of my adult students, Dana Nyson, released an incredible EP that was featured on Michigan Radio
RG: Tell me more about how you are Grand Rapid’s Highest Rated Music School?
JH: Honestly, we’ve been so focused on serving our students that we actually didn’t realize that fact until this year! When it was confirmed with the Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan, I was definitely not expecting it. Triumph is not the largest place, and we don’t even have a storefront or a sign. But we have cultivated something truly special here and that is most likely what has resonated with so many people. Our goal now is to continue with this level of service and work to surpass it.
RG: From where do you seek inspiration?
JH: Luckily, I don’t have to look very far. Seeing all the creativity that goes on at the school really fuels me. A lot of times, there are exchanges of ideas during lessons and in classes, and when I see someone achieving something they had never done before or when a project is really coming together, the feeling of excitement that I get from that is indescribable. Truly electrifying!
RG: What is your favorite instrument or talent on which to instruct your students?
JH: My first love in music has always been bass, so I really love teaching my bass students. However, my two biggest passions have always been getting people together to play and teaching song writing. Seeing music come alive in these forms is really what it’s all about for me.
RG: What are some of the common traits of a musically-minded child?
JH: Really, if you see your child singing to themselves a lot, touching or playing instruments whenever they are present, making up their own songs, or playing guitar on things like plastic baseball bats, getting them into some extracurricular music education is definitely something to consider. It’s really all about interest level. Someone can be musically inclined, but not possess the same desire to play as one who is really attracted to the art form. And let us not forget, there are plenty of adults out there who have always had a dream to play!
RG: True. What advice do you have for the parents of these children?
JH: Parents should make music an everyday part of their family’s lives. Sing favorite songs together, take them to live music events, pick out recordings at one of our fine record shops, introduce them to friends that play instruments, and nothing beats going to the Children’s Museum
, where they have instruments you can openly play with. Another great idea is to look up homemade instruments online and build something that makes sound together. Music is inside all of us, we just have to let it out and share it.
RG: What is the most gratifying thing about your job?
JH: Helping and eventually witnessing people reach and surpass their musical goals is the thing that I live for. There’s not much else that I can add to that, other than I wholeheartedly love my job.
Jenna Morton is the RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.