BYU’s new Grammy-nominated professor puts faith over music

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Only a handful of CDs sit on the shelves in the office of BYU’s new associate teaching professor of music, Ron Saltmarsh.

“I haven’t brought mine in,” he said, gesturing at the shelves populated by a small portion of his predecessor’s collection that was left behind. “I have about two walls worth of CDs at home. My wife wants them out of the house.”

Saltmarsh has only been in his new office for a few weeks, and he said he is still learning the ins and outs of his new job. It’s a position many coveted, but was occupied for more than 30 years.

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New professor Ron Saltmarsh comes to BYU armed with a Grammy nomination for his work on Diamond Rio’s album “One More Day.”

“There were a lot of people gunning for this job,” he said. “Literally, within 24 hours in February, I had five people contact me about this position from various sources. I took that as a sign that maybe I ought to look at this.”

His reason for applying for the position ─ that there was “a sign” ─ is the latest in a series of career moves he said was directed by the Spirit. The former bishop and BYU graduate has always put God’s plan ahead of his own and has led a life open to the promptings of the Spirit even in an industry where that way of thinking is not common.

Saltmarsh’s passion for music began at a young age.

“Initially, in high school, I thought I was going to be the next great rock guitar god,” he said.

Although he decided against being a rock star, Saltmarsh discovered his love for recording and producing, so he began learning more about it.

He studied music as an undergraduate and worked at a music store in the mall after graduation, but soon realized it wasn’t what he wanted to do with his degree. He received an MBA in 1989, and entered the workforce with a perspective many do not have.

“It was very advantageous for me to be able to talk from an artistic standpoint … but then also be able to sit down at the table with the accountants and financial guys and understand where they came from,” he said.

Saltmarsh opened and ran a recording studio in Orem until moving with his family to Nashville in 1991. It was the first of many cross-country moves that led to jobs in producing and recording artists and developing music for software and television.

“I’d literally write hundreds of pieces of music,” he said. “History Channel, Discovery Channel, Country Music Television. Today, I think I have music on almost every single network.”

Saltmarsh has received an Emmy Award for composing and production he did for A&E Network’s “Biography” series and was nominated for a Grammy for arranging and programming on Diamond Rio’s hit single, “One More Day.” Though he has a lot to boast about, he doesn’t volunteer it unless asked.

“He is very humble,” his wife Calene said. “He doesn’t toot his own horn.”

She calls the various moves their family made an “adventure,” but says they all required a leap of faith.

“We’ve been blessed,” she said. “We made choices that didn’t make sense to some people.”

Calene recalls jobs her husband turned down because they weren’t in line with his values or they took too much time away from his family or calling as a bishop.

“Years ago, when we were kind of struggling a little bit, he had this company that would hire him with certain products,” she said. “They had specifically heard his work and they specifically wanted him.”

The company was willing to shell out big bucks for a promotional campaign, but when Saltmarsh found out it was for a beer ad, he turned it down, a decision mocked by some.

“I think most people who know Ron know he’s a very spiritual person,” said Sam Cardon, an Emmy-winning composer who has known Saltmarsh since his BYU days. “It’s very obvious what the most important thing in Ron’s life is, and it’s not music.”

Music might be his livelihood and his passion, but Saltmarsh took the position because he felt it was where the Lord needed him to be.

“There are times when you’re aware of Heavenly Father’s hand in what’s going on,” he said. “I really believe this job was one of those. I felt very much moved and prompted to come to do this.”

Saltmarsh has plans to prepare his students for a fast-paced, ever-changing industry, but he also sees the need to nurture faith.

“The music industry is not the best environment,” he said. “I feel that is part of the mandate too. To help students prepare for that.”

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