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Inquiry into the Habits of a Significant Band Director


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What is a Significant Band Director?

Today we are going to conduct an inquiry into the habits of a significant band director. What makes a band director significant? What is needed to become significant? We will discuss all this, and more, as we inquire into the subject matter. Scott Rush, a presenter at the 2017 Midwest Clinic, is the respected authority this article is based on. Not only is Mr. Rush, a professional music educator but also a highly regarded author of several publications.

This presentation focuses on the teachings in his new book, Habits of a Significant Band Director. The vision of the book details the steps needed to take to become a successful band director who leaves a musical and personal legacy. That is to say, the message of the book and presentation is to inspire young and veteran band directors to teach with more insight and embrace the power of positive leadership.

Habits Synergy Model

Scott Rush identifies a working system which he calls the Habit Synergy Model. In this model, the music educator evokes a journey through five essential practices.

  • Knowledge
  • Communication
  • Positive Energy
  • Musicianship, and
  • Who You Are

Most importantly, these five components are at the core of what makes an educator successful. In addition, it provides a framework for a music educator to leave a positive lasting legacy for generations to come.

Part 1 – Knowledge

Components of Playing

Part one of the Habit Synergy Model is Knowledge. Having a well-formed musical knowledge base is an absolute must for any educator. Yes, four years of college and secondary school may not have provided you with all the skills needed. However, a quality foundation and understanding of the components of music are necessary for success. Mr. Rush outlines 20 of essential components of music that every educator should know amply.


(conference presentation pdf)

  1. Tone
  2. Timing
  3. Tuning
  4. Listening Skills
  5. Dynamics
  6. Phrasing
  7. Articulations – staccato, marcato, legato, slurred, various accents
  8. Rhythm
  9. Balance
  10. Blend
  11. Attacks
  12. Releases
  13. Duration of Notes
  14. Range
  15. Control
  16. Technique
  17. Tone Color – intensity, color spectrum, sonority
  18. Precision / Clarity / Accuracy
  19. Style

Call to Action: Take a moment and prioritize your components in your teaching. Moreover, do they differ from the list?

The Teaching Inventory Database

Teaching Challenge: First, create a spreadsheet. On that spreadsheet, take each component and identify 5-10 approaches to teaching. For example, take a look at Mr. Rush’s example below.

Part 2 – The Communicator

Guided Questions

Providing guided questions helps to initiate student thought processes. Therefore, use guided questions to help guide the known concept to the unknown. Also, this activity can be used to review new or older content material. Also, consider creating a list of guided questions that you can use throughout your career. For example, take a look at Mr. Rush’s example below.

Effective Communicator from the Podium

As a director, communication on the podium is paramount. Communicating with your students in this way includes having high expectations for music-making, procedures in the classroom, and positive synergy. Mr. Rush cites Larry Livingston, who says that three things must be reflected in the persona of the conductor:
1. You need musical conviction.
2. You must thoroughly know the score.
3. You must reflect the musical intent.

My interpretation of this statement involves the need for musical preparation and score study. Middle school band music scores will not be as complicated as playing grade 6 advanced band high school literature. However, knowing a score in-depth takes time, patience, and practice. Above all, this takes time to rehearse before the students have music on their stands.

Part 3 – Physical Energy

Think. Does your mood affect students in your rehearsal? Do you come to each rehearsal with energy and motivation? Is the next rehearsal going to be the best ever? These are all questions that influence whether you are seen as an inspiration to students. Are students going to rehearse because that is what is expected of them? Or do they perform because they want to be more like you?

If you find that you are always tired, try finding solutions. Consequently, a director that never has energy doesn’t indeed have the “X” factor in their rehearsals. As a result, musicians rehearsing under a director like this never truly get to experience musical nirvana.

Part 4 – Heart Energy

The next stage of the Habits Synergy Model is Heart Energy. This is the passion energy that drives your musicianship. To me, this is where the artistic juices of being a great musician come from. In addition, Scott Rush use powerful to describe Heart Energy. These words include beauty, shape, interpretation, emotion, style, mood, and artistry. That is to say, these words describe aspects of music that provides listeners authentic aesthetic responses. Consequently, this type of energy drew me to wanting to become a music educator.

Part 5 – Who You Are

The Habits Synergy Model is not complete without the life lessons and personality traits you have to share. Life experience has provided you the professional, educational, and moral compass to lead others to success. Consequently, people don’t generally join programs; they join people.

Based on your life experiences, you can achieve positive results for your program. If you have the ability to offer students skills that they know they want, you possess the final necessary element required of the Habits Synergy Model. Now, use these life experiences to craft your program, professional, and personal goals.


Scott Rush closes with a couple of reflections that sum up what makes a significant band director that leaves a lasting legacy. Most importantly, love your students. Above all, your students won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care for them. After that, the possibilities are endless. Remember that being significant is “how you leave a legacy and the definition of true success.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, I hope you have some value in the teachings of Mr. Scott Rush. If you would like to find out more or purchase his book you can find from many fine retailers. Thank you for investing time in yourself and reading this article. I truly appreciate your readership and I wish you the best in your professional growth endeavors.



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