If you’ve watched “Dateline NBC,” “48 Hours,” “Today Show,” “CBS Morning News,” “MTV,” “Inside Edition,” “Access Hollywood,” “Dr. Oz,” “Wife Swap,” “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette” or “Star Trek:Tech,” chances are you’ve heard the background music of Todd Burns, a Cleveland native who moved to Hollywood with his wife, Brenda.
Todd’s father Dr. Jim Burns is director of Graduate Music Studies at Lee and is himself an accomplished songwriter, singer and actor. Todd’s mother Doris is a playwright and drama producer.
It comes as no surprise then, that Todd’s pursuit of musical excellence seems ingrained in his symphonic DNA. Combined with Lee’s program for developing musical skills, the established Hollywood producer/composer can draw on his experiences playing with orchestras, jazz bands, wind ensembles and years of writing and producing artist demos.
In the last two years, no less than 70 TV shows and specials have aired his music. Todd also wrote and produced tracks for the Dance group “Groovaloos,” who won “Superstars of Dance” in 2009, and went on to perform more of his original music in their stage show.
It is his ability to compose such a wide variety of music that made Todd a standout with everyone from R&B singers and music editors to TV show producers and production companies. His wife, Brenda, credits Todd’s love of music as the catalyst for uniting them more than two decades ago and launching his career.
“We met at ORU (Oral Roberts University) in 1988 in Tulsa, Okla., when he transferred there from Lee to play in a TV show band,” said Brenda. “He was a trombone player and an aspiring songwriter/producer. I was an art major and music minor as well as a member of a small touring music ministry group.”
“We started hanging out when I asked him to produce a vocal demo for me to take to Nashville. I hung out between sessions. We went to a Fourth of July celebration — which is also his birthday — on the river where some of his bandmates were playing a concert in the park. I distinctly remember laughing all the way home.”
According to Brenda, she knew Todd was “the one” before they officially started dating nearly two months later. The following winter Brenda said she watched out of her window as Todd left her apartment late one night and saw him walking across a parking lot in a near blizzard.
“I realized he’d been walking all the way from campus both ways in the snow just to see me and never let on. That night I ran after him and I gave him the keys to my car to share with me. That was pretty much it,” she said.
The couple moved to Los Angeles in 1990, then to Nashville for three years where Todd toured with Kenny Rogers and Shelby Lynn.
In 1994 Todd and Brenda married in her hometown of Tulsa and moved back to L.A. when a writer/producer friend hooked Todd up with legendary R&B singer/songwriter Babyface and his camp.
“One of my most prominent memories was his calling me from Babyface’s house, where he was having dinner. He had just met Tony Braxton and Madonna had just left,” said Brenda. “We stayed in a house Babyface owned while we were visiting.”
When it comes to soul-stirring music, Brenda said, “I’m still (Todd’s) biggest, most enthusiastic fan. He’s known as being a real cut-up with a wicked, silly sense of humor, but he’s actually very deep and brilliant. I heard a producer once describe him as having a rare gift for marrying melody and lyric.
“But the part I’m most proud of is his integrity. He’s good to a fault. That is the most important part of all to me. His kids can be proud of who he is much more than what he does.”
Although Todd enjoyed some success in other music ventures, settling into TV composing proved to be his medium for national success and award-winning music.
His impressive wins at the SESAC Television and Film Composers Awards in four consecutive years has put a spotlight on the talents of the Cleveland composer/songwriter.
Todd recently composed much of the background music for the CBS Special “Fashion’s Night Out.” He also wrote, produced and performed a song for the upcoming motion picture “Catch 44” starring Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson and Forest Whitaker.
Although the couple and their sons, Max, 5, and Dylan, 4, visit Cleveland on occasion, they seem content living in California and blending into the background of a harmonious lifestyle, not unlike the blend of Todd’s award-winning music.
“Seeing my husband succeed, receiving the respect and acknowledgment he deserves, and seeing my children happy is what makes me the happiest,” said Brenda. “Being a totally present Mommy and the appreciation of how fortunate we both are to be home with our kids — being with my family and around people who love and support us — that’s pretty much it for me.
“The other thing is being at peace. There’s so much stress in this business — in the world. My marriage has been a blessing in that I’ve been able to spend nearly every day since the summer we met with the person who is truly my best friend. He keeps me in hysterics and artistically inspires me.
“We can collaborate on about anything creative and we are on the same page with where we want to be as a couple and a family. We pretty much live to make each other laugh, so that’s the blessing.”
If Todd and Brenda make beautiful music together, chances are it’s only because their harmonious lifestyle is orchestrated by love.