Stephen Busath serves as the adjunct percussion professor at the University of Illinois Springfield, where he teaches concert percussion as well as drum set, and he has just launched the program’s first ever percussion ensemble. Before coming to Illinois for graduate school, Stephen was a high school band director in Idaho as well as the principal percussionist for the Idaho Falls Symphony. Since coming to Illinois, he has completed his master’s degree in percussion performance and is currently ABD at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Stephen performs regularly with local symphonies, chamber groups, and any group that needs a Latin percussionist.
Rhythm! Scene: If you weren't a percussionist and educator, what career could you see yourself having pursued?
Stephen Busath: I probably would have been a high school math or a gym teacher. Practicing law crossed my mind, but I do not think my heart would have been in it.
R!S: As a freelance artist, what's one of the weirdest gigs you've taken or oddest jobs you've had outside the industry?
SB: I spent a summer in a small town on the border of the Mississippi River in 2011 playing drum set on the back of a horse-drawn wagon with a brass band. We wore period clothing from the 1840s and traveled around this small town performing for visitors.
R!S: What's one thing most people don’t know about you?
SB: Most people have no idea that I am really into fantasy novels. I particularly enjoy the author Brandon Sanderson.
R!S: What is your favorite percussion instrument and why?
SB: Congas, but this is mainly because of the music with which it is associated. When I get to play, I feel the freedom I don’t get from a long day doing concert percussion in a practice room.
R!S: Where did you grow up, and what’s one interesting thing about your childhood (musically or otherwise)?
SB: I grew up about 10 minutes south of Sacramento, California. I was a decent athlete; I was quite good at basketball and I ran a 4:40 mile my junior year in high school, but I gave up most sports to focus on music. Music was not really a big part of my life until I was about 15.