Episode 16: Music Education in Different States with Andy LaRusch


Music education varies greatly from state to state. Texas specifically is known for having incredible music education. For music teachers outside of Texas, there is a sort of mystery and allure to Texas music education and what makes their programs and bands so great. We wanted to get the details on what makes their music education programs stand out so we asked Andy LaRusch, a Texas head band director, to join us and give us some insight.

Andy started his music education journey in California before teaching in both Arizona and Texas. He has great insight into what makes Texas’ programs a cut above other states’ programs.  Today, he is sharing his background as a musician and band director, why he moved to Texas for his career, what his teaching environment looks like in Texas, what makes Texas music education stand out, and what he sees new music educators need the most support with.

Mr. LaRusch is proud to be in his second year as Head Director of Dessau Bands and in his 14th year teaching. He currently teaches beginning Trumpet, Flute, Euphonium, Trombone, and Tuba, and the Wind Ensemble at Dessau. Prior to teaching at Dessau, Mr. LaRusch was Head Orchestra Director at Bailey Middle School in Austin ISD, and spent 10 years as a High School Head Band Director in Phoenix, AZ.

He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from San Diego State University (Fear the Spear!) and a Master’s Degree in Music Education from Texas State University. Eat ‘Em Up CATS!

​As a graduate student, Mr. LaRusch worked closely with the University Bands, directing both the Bobcat Basketball Band and the University Brass Ensemble. He also served the Music Education Faculty and undergraduates in Woodwind and Band methods courses, and developed undergraduate methods course curriculum.

As Head Director for Sunnyslope High School in Phoenix, Arizona, Mr. LaRusch renewed a struggling program, doubling it’s membership not once, but twice. The Viking Pride Band frequently made appearances at the State Marching Festival in 4 of his last 5 years, and at the State Jazz Festival with numerous recognized Jazz Soloists. His students also regularly earned spots in the Region, All-state, and NAfME National Honor bands. Additional recognitions include receiving the ‘GUHSD Achievement Above All – Group’ award and securing a $25,000 grant from The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation.

Mr. LaRusch has served as a mentor teacher for PfISD and ABODA and has served as a cooperating teacher for Music Education majors at Texas State University. He is a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, TMEA, TBA, Phi Kappa Phi, and an Honorary member of Kappa Kappa Psi.

We want to make supporting your students as stress-free as possible! That’s why we created the Quarter Note Companion Pre-Method Book. This student-focused and affordable pre-method book will take your students from the first day of band to playing 5 notes correctly. It includes 20 lessons with step-by-step instructions and videos to help your students prepare for method book success!

In this episode we cover:

  • Andy’s background as a musician and band director
  • His music education journey from California, to Arizona, and finally Texas
  • What the teaching environment looks like in Texas for music educators
  • How Texas music education programs are different than other states and what makes them stand out 
  • His experience mentoring new educators and why he takes on that role
  • What he finds new educators need the most support with 

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More about The First Six Notes with Classroom Composers

The First Six Notes Podcast with Classroom Composers is for band teachers and string teachers looking for great information from experienced teachers. 

Every other week, we’ll dive into everything about teaching band and string music students. We’re covering everything from pedagogy to fundraising and interviewing successful music teachers, composers, admin, professional private studio teachers, and more to uncover and share their strategies for musical success. 

Classroom Composers is a married team of two music teachers, Kevin Hoff and Jessica Frank. Between the two of us, we have experience teaching K-6 general music, elementary 4/5 band/strings, and middle school band/strings/guitar who want to share our knowledge and experience with other teachers.

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