New Christian Apparel for Easter

Posted By on April 7, 2014

The company you go to for all your music needs is now the company to go to for great Christian apparel!  Pepper is thrilled to announce a new line of Christian shirts just in time for Easter.  Our connection to the Christian community has always been very strong and continues to grow stronger with this new line of products.

Christian Apparel from Pepper

Pepper’s Christian apparel helps followers of Christ spread the Word with inspiring slogans and scripture quotes that will remind you and others that we are all brothers and sisters in Him.  You already wear clothes that express your love of so many other things in your life, why not use your shirt to express your love for Christ?  A Christian shirt from J.W. Pepper is a great way to show the world what is already in your heart.

Shirts from Pepper’s Christian Apparel webpage make great gifts for the faithful in your life.  Have a friend just being initiated into your faith community this Easter season?  Make them feel welcome with a fun and inspiring shirt.  There are many different styles to choose from, so take a look and find the perfect shirt to share your faith!

Necessities for Marching Band Maintenance

Posted By on March 31, 2014

Accessories for MusiciansWith limited resources for many music programs these days, proper instrument upkeep has never been more important.  While you need to handle major repairs with a complete instrument repair kit, many smaller issues can be solved with regular maintenance.  A few cheap and easy fixes can make your equipment last a lot longer, saving your program a lot of money in purchases and repairs.  Here are a few of the most important items for keeping your instruments in playing condition:

The materials used to make woodwinds may have changed a bit over the years, but a few things are still essential to their upkeep.  As with any instrument, the interior of a woodwind comes in contact with a lot of moisture.  It is very important to keep the insides dry between rehearsals to keep the instrument in pristine working condition.  That’s why every woodwind player needs some kind of swab to dry out the insides.  Saxophonists will often use a large brush and keep it inside the neck where most of the moisture collects.

Not every woodwind instrument still uses cork at its connections, but most of them do.  Cork grease is essential to keep these cork connections from drying out.  If the cork dries out, it will begin to flake and break apart until the different segments of the instrument no longer fit together.  Without the cork, your clarinet won’t be good for anything!

Care of brass instruments can get complicated.  Even the relatively small instruments are a complex system of pipes and valves.  The French horn has over 20 feet of tubing all coiled up in a circle.  That can get a little difficult to maintain, but a few key products can make things a lot easier.  The most obvious is valve oil.  Every brass player should have their own bottle as it’s essential to keep the instrument in playing condition, but it’s important not to overuse it.  A light coating of oil every few rehearsals goes a long way.  Putting too much on can actually slow your valves and significantly impact your playing.

Of course, there’s more to brass instruments than just the valves.  If you really want to sound great, you need free use of your tuning slides — and that means you have to keep everything well greased.  When those tubes dry out, you might as well forget about getting the perfect pitch.

Percussion covers such a wide range of instruments that it’s difficult to nail down just a few essentials.  Probably the most important thing to have is a full repair kit designed specifically for percussion.  You don’t want to be scrambling for a drum key when a drum head comes loose during the first set.

Of course, there are many other maintenance items needed for incidental issues that crop up.  Pepper has a long list of necessities to help you protect your instruments and make sure they last a good long time.

Pepper is now the place to go for Music Apparel!

Posted By on March 20, 2014


You have always known us as the top sheet music retailer in the nation, and we know you will find our apparel section to be everything you’ve come to expect from J.W. Pepper.  We have a wide range of styles for you to choose from, so it’s easy to find a shirt that’s right for you.  From Muddy Waters to One Direction, we have whatever you are looking for.  Shirts make great gifts for your music-loving friends, so here’s a look at the musical genres that begat some of our favorite products.

Rock and Roll
The significance of rock and roll is difficult to overstate.  In a time when globalization was just beginning to bud, rock and roll was one of the first art forms to have a truly global reach.  In the 50s and 60s, young people on both sides of the Atlantic and even into Soviet Russia and Japan took part in the music revolution that brought us from sock hops to love-ins and beyond, sparking the beginning of a shared global identity that is still growing today.  Among the most ubiquitous bands of the first two decades of rock and roll were the Beatles.  We have a lot of great Beatles shirts to choose from as well as apparel from a ton of other rock and roll giants like Rush, Journey, the Eagles, and Foo Fighters.


The first truly American art form, jazz was also notable for the fact that it was created and driven by the United States’ minority African-American population.  Rooted in the old Negro spirituals sung in the days when slavery was still a blight on our nation, early jazz and blues told the stories of disenfranchised blacks still fighting for the promise of freedom while also presenting the lively, fun atmosphere of a vibrant community that could not be kept down by injustice.  One of the most influential jazz musicians of all time was saxophonist John Coltrane.  He helped spread jazz to the masses in the post-war world.  Around the same time, Muddy Waters was also a standard-bearer of jazz’s growing popularity.  Without them and other jazz pioneers like them, American culture would never have become what it is.

Among the most iconic locations in the world, few can match the volume of hopes and dreams risked in the theaters of Broadway.  For such a short stretch of road, it carries with it more history than some entire cities could dream of.  Many of the greatest stories ever told came to the public in the theaters on Broadway, and the center of the theater world shows no sign of slowing down.  We have shirts from some of the most popular Broadway musicals, including Cats and The Phantom of the Opera, both record-breaking shows.

The popularity of Christian music is making a resurgence with a number of Christian bands making their way into the mainstream.  That’s not terribly surprising considering over 75% of Americans identify as Christians.  Pepper is introducing a wide range of shirts that explore the many positive messages put forth by Christianity.  Best known, of course, is the text of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son.”  Another favorite comes from 1 Corinthians:  “For now there are faith, hope, and love.  But of these three, the greatest is love.”  A shirt is a great way to strike up a conversation about faith and share what is in your heart with others.


Pop is everywhere, but that’s kind of the point.  At one time or another, most of our favorite genres were pop in a manner of speaking.  Yes, even classical had a sort of pop status in the 1700-1800s.  Mozart was the Jim Morrison of his time, if Jim Morrison’s hair was white, puffy, and also a wig.  These days, our pop stars tend to still be individuals who rise above the competition and, sometimes, their own band members.  Adam Levine of Maroon 5 is a great example of this.  Equally as big is his co-host on The Voice, Usher.  Of course, we have shirts from all your favorite pop stars, so if you’re looking for a concert t-shirt or just something to wear to class, we have you covered!

The greatest music never really goes away.  In a hundred years, our children’s children will still hear Beethoven and Mozart in movies and on TV, whether they realize it or not.  With the many different genres in music filling the airwaves these days, it sometimes seems like the world has no time for classical.  That’s not the case, though.  In fact, appreciation of classical music is as strong as it has been in years, with countless school orchestras, bands, and choirs keeping the old favorites alive while mixing it in with the great music of the present.  To prove it, we have a number of shirts celebrating classical music and classical composers in styles you will love.  Keep the past alive!


Our Pepper Apparel section is backed by the same great guarantee as our music and accessories.  We ship quickly, with most orders going out the same day they are ordered, and everything is backed by our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.  That’s something you won’t find anywhere but with Pepper.

MTNA Conference Premiering Two Intermediate Trios

Posted By on March 18, 2014

MTNA Chicago 20142,000 music teachers, students, and music industry personnel will meet in Chicago from March 22-26, 2014 for the Music Teachers National Association’s annual conference.  Prominent on the schedule is the premiere of two trios by American composers Wynn-Anne Rossi and Phillip Keveren.  Both trios were commissioned by MTNA’s Collaborative Commissioning Project which encourages the creation and study of chamber music accessible to intermediate-level students and amateurs.  Consider these two inspiring works for the intermediate-level musicians in your sphere.

Skyscraper by Wynn-Anne Rossi is an energizing, motivating, late-intermediate trio for clarinet, alto saxophone and piano.  Wynn-Anne conveys the wonder of a towering skyscraper and the fast pace, excitement, and dissonance of a big American city.  Jazz rhythms, meters and harmonies are prominent.  One movement in length, the duration is four breathtaking minutes.

Petite Voyage by Phillip Keveren for trumpet, trombone and piano is a beautiful, inspiring intermediate-level trio in F Major.  The piece begins with fluid arpeggios in the piano and the introduction of a simple two-measure theme by the trumpet, answered by the trombone.  Its middle section is playful and carefree. For this listener, the grand ending evoked images of an elegant ship entering a harbor.  One movement in length, the duration is four and half minutes.
Petite VoyageSkyscraper
Skyscraper and Petite Voyage will be premiered and composers Wynn-Anne Rossi and Phillip Keveren will be interviewed at the MTNA conference at 2:15 pm on Sunday, March 23 at Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile. The hour-long event is called From the Pen to the Premiere.

“A Whole New World” – Aladdin on Broadway!

Posted By on March 11, 2014

AladdinAladdin, the classic tale of a street rat’s adventures in finding himself and true love, hit the Broadway stage on February 26 at the New Amsterdam Theater.

This beloved Disney film has created musical classics like A Whole New World, Friend Like Me, One Jump Ahead, Prince Ali  and more.   All these pieces are included in the stage production along with new music from the collaborative minds of Alan Menkin, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin.

The stage production is already making quite a buzz in music and theater communities as well as social media channels.   Audiences have been stunned and thrilled at the appearance of Jonathan Freeman reprising the role of Jafar that he voiced in the movie.

The cast and crew have been previewing their production in Toronto at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, receiving wonderful reviews on all accounts.  The production arrived on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theater for preview shows beginning February 26, with opening night set for March 20.

If you haven’t seen the teaser video, take a look and discover “A Whole New World” of Aladdin on Broadway!  Here’s a behind-the-scenes view in pre-production:

Getting Ready for Aladdin - The Making of a Broadway Musical

And if you want to include some Aladdin music in your next show, or just sing and play along, try these pieces:

Music from Disney’s Aladdin

50 Years of Wingert-Jones Music

Posted By on March 7, 2014

Wingert-Jones Commemorative EditionsIt was the Mid-West National Band Clinic, 1964. Merrill Jones sat alone at a table with his publishing company’s entire catalog — one piece by Claude T. Smith, a well-known band director in the area around Kansas City.  The piece was called Emperata Overture and its success laid the groundwork for the lasting relationship Wingert-Jones Publications was built upon.  The company we know today came out of those humble beginnings based on a love of grand overtures and the works of Claude Smith.

Before forming a publishing company, George Wingert and Merrill Jones both worked as instrument salesmen, traveling the Midwest to visit various schools and organizations.  Both had grown tired of the grueling life on the road and wanted to start a business in Kansas City where they both lived.  They did just that, starting out as a small-time operation with everything handled in house by just a few employees.

George Wingert passed away just a few years after the founding of Wingert-Jones.  Joyce Pinnell was hired to help run the store, and Frank Fendorf, a local band director, came in to help as well.  Through this time, Jones continued to publish and sell mainly the works of Claude T. Smith.  Smith focused almost entirely on high-end band arrangements for high schools and the military.  This was Jones’ preference, and Wingert-Jones remained a small-scale, highly specialized operation for many years.

In 1987, Claude T. Smith died of a heart attack.  By then, Frank Fendorf had taken over for Merrill Jones and the company was interested in expanding its market share.  Bob Foster, a music teacher at a local university, took over for Claude one day a week working on title selection, submissions, and handling correspondence, contracts, and rejection letters.  Bob continues to work for Wingert-Jones to this day and has had a significant impact on the development of the company into what it is today.

Though Merrill Jones preferred to stay away from more education-oriented pieces, in the ’90s the company decided to try its hand at what was and is the majority of the market.  They started the Achievement Series, working with composers such as David Holsinger and Nancy Seward to create educational pieces for mid-level musicians.  Producing ten pieces a year, the Achievement Series became a critical part of Wingert-Jones’ success in recent years.  Over time, they added an Early Achievement Series for elementary musicians and continue to produce both series to this day.
Wingert-Jones Commemorative Editions
Wingert-Jones was acquired by Malecki Music in the mid ’90s, which was in turn acquired by J.W. Pepper & Son in 2004.  In this same year that Wingert-Jones turns 50, we are also celebrating 10 years of collaboration between Wingert-Jones and J.W. Pepper.  In recognition of the 50th anniversary of Wingert-Jones, we are releasing Commemorative Editions of a number of classic pieces.  In order to bring these pieces to a new generation of musicians, Wingert-Jones is printing new editions with cleaner engravings and corrections of any mistakes.  This is a great opportunity to see what made Wingert-Jones the success it has been over the last five decades and enjoy some timeless music.

The 300th Birthday of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

Posted By on February 26, 2014

C.P.E. BachThe year 2014 could prove to be significant for the legacy of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.  The second surviving son of the great Johann Sebastian Bach was born on March 8, 1714, and a flurry of events worldwide will commemorate the 300th anniversary of his birth.  Six cities in Germany will hold celebrations this year, with the most extensive in Hamburg, where C.P.E. Bach spent the last twenty years of his life.

To appreciate the influence that C.P.E Bach had on his contemporaries and later composers, it is helpful to examine his life.  Emanuel Bach was trained thoroughly in music by his father, but both parent and son realized that a university education was necessary in order to obtain a high-ranking court position.  Once Emanuel had his law degree, he was free to pursue composition as part of his duties as court cembalist in the orchestra of Friedrich II (later Frederick the Great) in Berlin.  This position allowed him time to compose numerous works, many for the clavier (a predecessor of the piano).

One of C.P.E. Bach’s lasting gifts to the music world was his treatise on playing keyboard instruments.  It is difficult for us to imagine now, but at that time, the thumbs were not used in keyboard playing.  Emanuel encouraged use of the thumbs and argued for their necessity in order to create effortless technique.

In his mature years, Emanuel became more interested in writing choral music, most likely because he succeeded Georg Philipp Telemann (his godfather and partial namesake) as director of music in Hamburg in 1768.  The increased workload called for music to fill 200 concerts per year, so he created many new works and settings, most using existing materials.  Along with being a prolific composer, Emanuel was also a shrewd businessman and exerted careful control over the publishing of his keyboard and choral works.  He died in Hamburg in 1788 at the age of 74.

C.P.E. Bach, like his music, was full of complexity, passion, intellect, and subtle wit.  Many later composers, such as Beethoven, lauded his skills.  Is it possible that many concertgoers did not appreciate this special music that was ahead of its time?  If so, modern audiences will enjoy renewed opportunities this year to reflect on the impressive quality of C.P.E. Bach’s collective works.

Yes, he had an amazingly brilliant father, but Emanuel’s reputation still stands firmly on its own 300 years after his birth.

Take a look at a selection of C.P.E. Bach music.

Repertoire – Choosing Quality Choral Music, Conclusion

Posted By on February 24, 2014

Now that you have found some potential pieces and they fit the “who, what, when, where and why” of your practical considerations, what now?  Consider the following additional questions:

  1. Is the piece singable by your choir?  When I was hired to teach my first high school choir, I was on fire for music that I sang when I was in college.  I thought it was so great, I wanted my student choir to sing it as well.  But, I had not given any consideration to “who, what, when, where and why.”  Well, as you can imagine, much of the choir was frustrated with the level of difficulty of the piece and I ended up removing it from their folders.
  2. Looking at the text, what is the piece saying?  Is the text suitable for the age of your students?  Make sure that the text is age appropriate.  Some years ago, I took a poll in my classes about the importance students placed on words in the popular music they were listening to.  Overwhelmingly, the majority of my students said that the words are “extremely important” to any song.  So I began paying more attention to what the text was all about in the music I was choosing.  Oftentimes we would discuss the text of a piece as a class, and sometimes we would even write in journals.  I was amazed at the reflections my students offered to “read aloud” to the rest of the class, about what the text meant to them.  Through these reflections, the students were able to connect the text and music to their own lives, ultimately creating a real and honest performance.
  3. Is the piece range appropriate?  Does the range of the notes in the piece fall within the capabilities of the choir for which you are choosing it?  Check to make sure that there are not many notes that fall outside the tessitura of each section.
  4. Will the piece pass the five-year test?  Does the piece have staying power?  Will it still be something your choirs can sing in five years?  If not, can you justify making the purchase for the present?
  5. Does the piece contribute to the variety of music chosen?  It is always a good idea to sing a number of different styles and a variety of music on any one program.
  6. Will it contribute to building the vocal ensemble sound?  An important thing to consider.  Sure, sometimes you’ll want to sing something for the fun of it, but that should be the exception rather than the rule. What specific vocal techniques can this piece help you teach?  Legato, staccato, singing chromatics, crescendos, etc.  Plus, knowing this will help when you need to educate folks as to what educational reasoning you used to consider this particular piece.
  7. Are you excited about the music?  If you have high-quality choral music and you’re excited about it, chances are your students will be excited as well.  If you and the students are excited and perform it well, the audience will recognize this and enjoy it too.  Occasionally, you will have to “sell it” a little more if it is a challenging piece, but if it’s high-quality music, they will grow to really enjoy it and recognize its intrinsic value.

The repertoire we choose is an important tool that can have a very powerful and positive influence on our students.  It is essentially our “textbook” for the class, and can determine the success or failure of a program. Balance in choosing music is important. Sure, you should choose some quality arrangements of popular songs, but don’t forget the rich music of our cultural past.  I always loved the statement the character Glenn Holland made in the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus: When speaking to the principal he states, “Mrs. Jacobs, you tell them that I am teaching music, and that I will use anything from Beethoven to Billie Holiday to rock and roll if I think it’ll help me teach a student to love music.”

In this results-oriented society, let’s not forget that the most important thing is not so much the concert, it’s what’s learned on the journey toward the performance.

The Star-Spangled Banner Turns 200

Posted By on February 20, 2014

The Star-Spangled BannerWe know the story of how The Star-Spangled Banner was written.  Francis Scott Key, lawyer and amateur poet, sat aboard a British warship in Baltimore Harbor watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry when the lyrics came to him.  He had gone to the ship to discuss a prisoner exchange, but was forced to stay when the battle commenced.  From his vantage on the ship, he watched the start of the bombardment, the “rockets’ red glare” illuminating the scene.  When dawn finally broke, the Stars and Stripes still flew over the fort, signaling that the Americans had held on.

The original poem was entitled The Defense of Fort McHenry, but Key gave it to a friend who set it to the tune of The Anacreontic Song, a popular piece at the time.  It would be another hundred years before The Star-Spangled Banner would become the national anthem, a decision finalized by President Herbert Hoover in 1931.  Before that, it was used in a number of military capacities and during events such as the World Series.

This year, we celebrate the bicentennial of The Star-Spangled Banner and what it has meant for our nation since it was written.  Until 1931, the United States actually did not have a national anthem.  Several different songs were played and sung as patriotic pieces, but none were official anthems.

The song has been criticized in the past for glorifying conflict over the other great accomplishments this nation has achieved, but I would argue that those people miss the deeper nature our anthem has come to possess.  It is not just about the military struggle the song details, but also the countless other struggles our nation has endured.  Internal strife threatened to tear our nation in two, but we somehow mended the scars of war that separated us.  Racial segregation insulted the very idea of our freedom, but we are to this day working to right those wrongs, in spite of our differences.  The vast majority of us are the descendants of immigrants who braved famine, storm, and misery to embrace the promise that was and is America.

Those are the battles that the lyrics of The Star-Spangled Banner have come to represent.  We are, all of us, a product of the struggle against tyranny that our anthem describes, be it the tyranny of imperialist power, the tyranny of ignorance, the tyranny of indifference, and so much more.  In the hearts of people around the nation and the world, there is the fear that the beauty that is freedom may not last the night;  but if we strive to be leaders in the fight for the rights of all mankind, we can make sure that by the dawn’s early light the spirit of liberty might continue to wave.

Of course, we here at Pepper have a number of beautiful arrangements of The Star-Spangled Banner.  Look through our collection and we’re sure you will find a version you like!

Shop for The Star-Spangled Banner

Repertoire – Choosing Quality Choral Music, Part 2

Posted By on February 12, 2014

In Part 1 we discussed practical considerations in choosing repertoire, such as the makeup of your performing group and the your intended audience.  Now we’ll look at how to find appropriate literature:

Where do you look?

  • Existing library of music where you teach  If the titles in your own library are not already listed on a spreadsheet, this would be a helpful project to complete. Enlist the help of student aides and perhaps some parent volunteers. Set up the fields you want, including title, composer/arranger, publisher, voicing, number of copies on hand, the date the piece was performed and even the style. This will make it easier to search for repertoire in the future.
  • Programs from previous concerts  This is especially helpful for teachers beginning a new job. Take a good look at what’s been done successfully in the past, particularly what was done four and five years before. It might give you a good idea of where to start.
  • Go online  has more resources and search capabilities than ever before. You can customize your search, hear quality recordings, see samples of the music, and search for Editors’ Choice, Pepper’s exclusive evaluation of the best new titles each year. Take a look at the Basic Library as well, where you’ll find a selection of chorals that have stood the test of time. Pepper also carries all state and festival lists.
  • More online resources  Other websites include:
  • Attend choral concerts  This is still a great way to find music. Go to as many as you can. Keep your program and make notes on it as to what songs are worth considering (or not!)
  • Conventions and conferences  Perhaps the most exciting, conventions and conferences can afford you the opportunity to hear many concerts, attend workshops, mingle and talk with colleagues, and even pick up free music packets.
  • Publications:  The Choral Journal, ACDA; Teaching Music, NAfME; Teaching Music through Performance in Choir, GIA Publications; Choral Repertoire, Oxford University Press; The School Choral Program, GIA Publications.
  • Build a library of recordings  Go to,, and to begin listening to and collecting recordings of professional choirs singing great music.
  • Build a repertoire file  When I began my career in education, I started a file labeled “ideas” into which I was constantly dropping notes during the school year. These were reminders to myself of things that I would change or implement for the following year. I quickly set up a file labeled “Repertoire Ideas,” to which I loaded pieces of music, programs, notes from students, and any and all ideas for music that I wanted to consider in the future.

Next post, the conclusion of Repertoire – Choosing Quality Choral Music