Recently, we spoke with Scott Rush, author of the Habits series, about his method books.
What did you do before you started writing the Habits series?
I am a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music and was the band director at Wando High School in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. The initial Habits content came from the work I did with the staff and students at Wando.
What spurred you to start with the first of the Habits series, Habits of a Successful Band Director, and how/why did you decide to continue writing other Habits books?
When I was at Wando High School, Tim Lautzenheiser would come each year to present a student leadership workshop. On one of his visits, we began to discuss student teachers and university music ed students. In the conversation, Tim said, “You should write a book.” I didn’t think he was initially serious about the suggestion, but ultimately the first version of Habits of a Successful Band Director was published by Focus on Excellence, which Tim was a part of. When the book came out, we sold a good number of copies pretty quickly. Tim called and said he would like to ask GIA to publish the book because they would have more distribution and marketing capabilities. I agreed, and thus the relationship with GIA Publications and Alec Harris began.
With the success of the initial book we began to brainstorm about other books and methods with professional references and resources that would help music educators and their students grow as artists. We hope to continue to expand the series.
How did your background shape the Habits series?
We are a product of our experiences and can only give away what we have. Each of the writers in the Habits series have unique pedagogical skills grounded in their educational training and based on their work in the trenches with students. My personal background has been shaped by the mentors I’ve had the opportunity in which to collaborate. At New England Conservatory I had the privilege of performing under Frank Battisti, Ben Zander, Carl St. Claire, Pascal Verrot, and studied horn with Charles Kavalovski. Throughout my career at Wando, I brought in master teachers/conductors to work with the ensembles. I learned as much from watching these icons rehearse as I did from my other educational experiences. Much of what we’ve tried to provide in the Habits series has come from these experiences “in the trenches.”
What makes the series different from other teaching methods?
I’m not sure there is one answer to this question because each of the books is unique and holistic. With that said, there is a thread or through-line that connects many of our resources. Every student book is thoroughly piloted and actively revised before we publish it. We use the Components of Playing (or singing) and the Teaching Inventory Database to evaluate “What” to teach and “How” to teach it. It’s not the specific exercise, but the teaching behind the exercise, that creates the epiphany moment..
How many different books are currently a part of the series?
There are currently 14 books in the Habits series.
Three of the student method books are for band, which include: Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician, Habits of a Successful Middle School Musician, and Habits of a Successful Musician.
The two string method books in the series are Habits of a Successful Middle Level String Musician and Habits of a Successful String Musician by lead author Christopher Selby, and our choral method book is Habits of a Successful Choral Musician by lead author, Eric Wilkinson.
In addition, there are seven pedagogical books for music educators in the series, which include: Habits of a Successful Band Director, The Evolution of a Successful Band Director, Habits of a Significant Band Director, Habits of a Successful Middle School Band Director, Quality of Life Habits of a Successful Band Director, Habits of a Successful Choir Director, and Habits of a Successful Orchestra Director.
Another resource in the Habits series is on student leadership for band, choir, and orchestra titled, Pathway to Success by Tim Lautzenheiser and myself. Pathway to Success is geared toward creating a culture of excellence and is designed to connect teachers and students in a significant way through music, love, passion, vision, and purpose.
What other authors did you work with on the series?
We have an amazing team of writers in the series including: Jeff Scott, Christopher Selby, Eric Wilkinson, Marguerite Wilder, Kevin Boyle, Tim Lautzenheiser, Jeremy Lane, Emily Wilkinson, and Rich Moon. Soon, we will be adding Dr. Mary Land and Linard McCloud to our list of master educators.
We are excited to now include Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician in SmartMusic’s library. What can performers and educators hope to gain from this series?
The overwhelming positive response from directors during this past year (year one) has been tremendous.
Teachers and students love the sequencing. Each student can go to habitsuniversal.com and access a video coach for their instrument that provides Start-up Clinic, Pro Tips, and a video of each exercise in the book.
For teachers, there is clarity in the sequencing because there is a “Purpose Statement” for each exercise.
Directors also love how the supplemental materials under “Resources” on www.habitsuniversal.com are integrated into the pacing and sequencing of instruction for students.
In addition, there is an entire curriculum for instruction prior to students playing on their full instruments—grounded in rhythmic literacy, optional solfege instruction, air playing, and students playing on their “small instruments” (mouthpiece, mouthpiece and barrel, mouthpiece and neck, headjoint, etc.).
As I mentioned, The book is a true beginner method, but has a great balance of skill and technique building (fundamentals) coupled with artistry and musicianship through folk songs from 21 countries plus fun tunes!
We know that to build musicians, we need to start with Timing, Tuning, Tone, Technique, Balance, Blend, Articulation, Dynamics, and developmentally appropriate Musicianship as cornerstones.
And we include strategies for each exercise in the book under “Teacher Tips,” including developmentally appropriate terms for musical expression.
What is pedagogically unique about Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician?
Some of the things that are unique about Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician include the “First Days” curriculum prior to starting on an instrument. Teacher Tips and a Purpose Statement for each exercise in the book. Supplemental assessment resources. Diatonic solfege instruction. The introduction of five keys and the teaching of four articulations. The use of the Enharmonic Ladder. Rhythms followed by the same rhythms in pitches. Syncopation through the eighth-quarter-eighth rhythm. Start-up clinic videos for each instrument and a video demonstration of each exercise. Flicking on bassoon, Markings for the “F-dilemma” on oboe. Left and Right indicators for woodwinds along with indications for chromatic fingerings. An explanation for using the F-attachment on trombone. Fifteen rudiments embedded into the curriculum. The teaching of the rebound, up-stroke, down-stroke, and multiple-bounce stroke for percussion, with stickings marked throughout the book. The supplemental resources on www.habitsuniversal.com are also unique to the series.
In addition, we see the Habits beginner book as a year 1.5 book. Of course, everyone’s schedule is different so this may vary from program to program. However, the sequencing and pacing will work in various teaching situations.
What should students and teachers expect from the accompaniments in SmartMusic?
The accompaniment tracks, written by composer Leslie Gilreath, are receiving rave reviews by the directors and students alike. The students enjoy playing the fun and musical accompaniments that are designed to make them sound good. Smart Music is a great tool to help take advantage of the best parts of the Habits series, from beginners through high school and even beyond!
We’d like to thank Scott for sharing his insights with us. You can learn more about how Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician can transform your beginning band at giamusic.com.