Brian Roth: Making Beautiful Music in Grand Ledge

By Jane Whitttington on March 19th, 2016 / Comments

Brian Roth knew from the age of ten when he first picked up a guitar that he would make his life about music. After graduating from Reeths-Puffer High School in Muskegon where he took every opportunity to be involved with music, he went on to Hope College to major in general music. At the time, although he was very interested in composing, there were few classes offered at the college and no degree in composition, but he took what was available. After graduation, he moved to Los Angeles and began to make his way in the competitive field of the music industry. His 20 years in California saw his gradual but steady rise in that industry. He started out working in a music store as the store’s classical music expert. His next step was a studio job doing music for regional advertising. That led to work with larger agencies doing commercials for big, national companies like McDonalds and Doritos.

Roth says, “Companies from all over the country would come to our studios in LA because we had the talent and experience. I next moved to entertainment marketing and worked on radio commercials for movies and TV shows. During that time, I worked on most of ABC’s prime time lineup. My job in these agencies was in audio production—directing the commercials, choosing the music and sound effects and producing them. I was also working on my own composing at that time. ”

Roth had the rare opportunity of working with Ken Burns, famed documentary maker, on four of his projects. He was audio producer for National Parks, The Roosevelts, The Civil War and Prohibition.

Roth says, “Working with Ken Burns was an amazing experience. He was always excited and enthusiastic about his projects and he brought that sense of excitement to work with him every day. He is definitely a force of nature. Because I was recording all the narrative voices, I was also able to meet actors who worked with him in making the documentaries—people like Tom Hanks, who is just as friendly and nice as everyone says he is!”

While Roth was working with other people’s music, he was also working with his own. He published his work to sources from which the entertainment industry buys. His own compositions were featured in over 100 shows including MTV’s The Real World, The Incredible Hulk, American Idol, the Bourne franchise and many others.

While his work in California was rewarding and his career a success, when he and his wife had children, they reconsidered their priorities and decided to return to Michigan which they felt would be a better place to raise a family. Roth said he had two goals. He wanted to keep doing music, and he wanted to give back to the community.

He is continuing to work providing music both as an audio producer and composer. Information about this aspect of his work can be accessed at

In November of 2015, he launched Roth Academy of Music in Grand Ledge, a suburb of Lansing.

Roth says, “We found a perfect place to open a studio. Our building used to be a tanning salon so it has lots of small rooms as well as a pleasant lobby with a fireplace. We are using the small rooms as private lesson spaces.”

He continues, “There’s a great pool of talent at Michigan State University, and I have hired several of musicians from there as teachers. Right now we have seven teachers and 40 students. I have 10 more students on a waiting list and am in the process of hiring two more teachers.”

The school offers lessons in piano, voice, violin, viola, drums, guitar, cello, bass, dulcimer and theory. Instruments are available to rent.

He credits Lansing Economic Development Corporation (LEAP) with helping him as he geared up to open his school.

Roth says that he has also been working with the students at his own studio and at local schools to introduce them to the music business and let them know there are more options than teaching or performing.

Brian Roth is all about the music: producing, composing, playing, teaching and spreading love for and appreciation of the art.

For more information about the Roth Academy of Music, visit

Jane Whittington

About the Author

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Grand Rapids. A Michigan native and Michigan State University grad, she enjoys reading, travel, politics and volunteering.