The Eric Whitacre Virtual Youth Choir

Posted By on July 22, 2014

It is almost time for the long-awaited reveal of Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Youth Choir.  The wildly popular Virtual Choir project has a new flavor this time around, focusing completely on the voices of those 18 and under.  Children as young as two years old practiced and recorded a specially arranged version of Whitacre’s “What If” tailored toward younger voices.  The completed video will be revealed at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, which start on July 23rd.  It will also be broadcast globally and streamed online at the same time.

This is the fifth installment of Whitacre’s Virtual Choir.  It started small, with 185 voices from 12 countries, and has grown into a worldwide phenomenon since then.  This is Virtual Choir geared exclusively toward youth singers.  It launched in May and quickly amassed an enormous number of submissions.

All told, 2,292 singers from 80 different countries submitted videos to the project.  You can see many of the audition videos at and read about the process as well.  The project is working in partnership with UNICEF, the world’s leading children’s organization.  Founded in 1946, UNICEF is an organ of the United Nations originally created to bring food and health care to war-torn Europe.  Today, it has stations in 190 countries worldwide.

Check the Youth Choir website for updates on the release with specific times and where you can watch.

The Conn-Selmer Institute 2014

Posted By on June 6, 2014

csi-mast-newThe Conn-Selmer Institute returns this year from June 8th to the 11th.  Held annually in Mishawaka, Indiana, sessions focus on recruitment techniques, retention, student engagement, and motivation as well as a wide range of other topics music teachers may not have touched upon in college.

Started in 1997, the Conn-Selmer Institute has worked to promote music education.  Led by Tim Lautzenheiser, the Institute features 18 premier musical minds presenting various seminars and sessions for both music teachers and music education students.

On Tuesday, June 10, there will be a special session called The Music Parents/Booster Leader Seminar.  Attendees will learn about powerful and effective strategies to grow support for their local music programs.  Music parents and boosters already do a lot for their children’s music groups, and this session will teach them how to optimize their hard work.

For more information on the Institute and the special session, including schedules and a full list of the presenters, go to the Conn-Selmer Institute website:

Plan Your Field Show with Pyware

Posted By on May 28, 2014

5836143 The process of planning and executing a marching band field show can take an incredibly long time, but since 1994, marching band directors have had Pyware to help them.  Pyware is an advanced tool for constructing and visualizing both formations and movements for field shows, drum line competitions, and color guard productions.

Pyware has always been great about releasing new versions and updating their existing software to continually improve the user experience.  The newest versions have a ton of great new features to help plan and visualize your field show.

Pyware has been working hard to make the visual aspect of their software more and more realistic.  They have added a plethora of new realistic poses and animations for the simulated members of your color guard, including, but not in the least limited to, Bent Wall, Windmills, and Figure 8 Carves.  There are also new instruments, props, and locations.  You can simulate a full pit with new Gymnasiums for indoor shows and different settings for outdoor shows.  Wherever your show is taking place, you can simulate it on Pyware.

The new versions also clean up the process of planning a field show and create an improved user experience.  You can now make custom yard markers and delete camera movements with one button.  Camera panning has also been improved to move in counts rather than in seconds, giving your simulation a more realistic look.  There are also new printing options for thicker grid and yard lines to make it easier for your ensemble members to learn their sets.

Read more, and check out this demo of Pyware Version 7.2.

Richard Strauss’ 150th Birthday

Posted By on May 12, 2014

Richard_StraussIn 2014 we celebrate the 150th birthday of Richard Strauss (June 11, 1864 – September 8, 1949).  He is considered by many to be the natural musical successor to Richard Wagner and the leading German composer of the post-Romantic period of music.  Like Wagner, he was a master orchestrator known for combining large orchestras with drama and voice.  Although he began as a Late Romantic composer of absolute music in the vein of Brahms, he later followed the path of Wagner and Liszt, shocking the world with a series of tone poems and operas that pushed the boundaries of accepted musical practice.

He used the tone poem as a vehicle to create a unified work that had a “program” to convey a certain mood and story for the audience to follow.  Some say that Liszt created the tone poem, but Strauss perfected it.  Among his best-known tone poems are Thus Spake Zarathustra, Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, and Don Juan.

Perhaps the leading twentieth-century opera composer, his comic opera Der Rosenkavalier may be his greatest work, and one that was supposedly “inspired” by Mozart in its charm and character.  That contrasts with his extremely realistic interpretation of the Greek tragedy Elektra, which many found to be too gruesome for the theater.

The son of a famous virtuoso horn player, Strauss wrote his first horn concerto before he was 20.  His second horn concerto would come nearly 60 years later toward the end of his long, industrious career.  His only other notable instrumental music consists of an oboe concerto, a sonata for violin, a sonata for cello, and his Burleske in D minor for Piano and Orchestra.Richard_Strauss2

A tribute to Richard Strauss would not be complete without mentioning his skill as a gifted songwriter, often placed in the same breath as Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms.  He wrote more than 150 art songs (Lieder) throughout his career.  Among his most popular are “Allerseelen” and “Morgen” in his earlier years and the celebrated Four Last Songs written in the final year of his life.

Some place Strauss among the top 20 composers of all time.  He lived at a time when composers were searching for new ways of expression.  His biggest contribution ultimately lies in fusing established genres like tone poems, opera and art songs with fresh tonality and lyricism to create a truly unique and lasting voice.

Try these selections available from J.W. Pepper:   Works by Richard Strauss

Three Marching Band Horror Stories

Posted By on April 21, 2014

Marching-Band-CoverTrying to keep a rehearsal running smoothly with a collection of musicians is difficult enough as it is.  Add to that the unpredictable outdoors, a plethora of competitions, and a hundred or so jittery teenagers and you might as well be herding cats.  With all the different factors and variables that go into a marching band field show, it is incredibly satisfying to see everything go right in the end.  Of course, with so much going on, a director cannot always expect to beat the odds and have a flawless show or rehearsal.  Here are three instances when the odds won out:


Missing in Action
Band directors have rules for a reason.  If a student ever questions that, here is a story to reinforce the fact:

Our first director has just a few simple rules.  One of the easiest of those: students are NOT allowed to leave the premises without an approved staff member or parent.  A member of the staff is provided to transport students if need be.  That is just what a certain student was told when asked if she could have another band member drive her home to pick up her medication.  Did the student listen?  Of course not.  Here is what transpired:

Lunch was over and the two students had not returned.  Eventually the father of the boy who offered to drive the young lady appeared at the rehearsal and motioned for the director to come speak to him.  The news was less than pleasant.  The students in question had been involved in a car accident.  Before you panic, the students themselves were fine.  The house they crashed into was not.

Yes, a house.  But wait, the director thought, as he looked out into the parking lot.  That’s the student in question’s car right there in the parking lot.  How could that have happened?  As it turned out, the driver had borrowed another band member’s car.  The director called that band member out to speak to them, asking “did you lend your car to this student?”

“Why, yes!  Er, after a fashion…”  What do we mean by “after a fashion?”  Well, the car didn’t belong to the student.  It belonged to his grandfather.

So to recap, a male student borrowed his friend’s grandfather’s car to drive a young lady who had been told she could not get a ride from the first boy and proceeded to drive the car into a house which, as it turns out, belonged to a cafeteria worker at the school.  Got it?

No word on whether the young lady felt this was better or worse than driving with the designated staff member.  We have a guess…


The Day the Field Stood Still
Flag markers can be a huge help when learning a new drill.  They make a bit of a mess and you cannot leave them out overnight, but the visual aid is key for teaching new movements and positions quickly.  Cleanup can take a while and be a little taxing (especially when thrust upon a horde of teenagers), but it is doable.  Well, at least until the power goes out…

That very nightmare came true for one director out in California.  To say such a thing happens once in a blue moon would be fair.  Of course, had it been a blue moon things would have gone much more smoothly, as there would have been plenty of light.  As it was, the moon was new and the field fell dark.

After the screaming (yes, screaming) subsided, the director was able to regain what sense of order one can hold over musicians.  For once, modern technology became the director’s friend as one by one the students pulled out their cell phone flashlights to illuminate the areas around them.  The power never returned, but the band was able to (slowly) clean up the field before ending practice early… and in the dark.


Regionals or Bust
The band director has many enemies that conspire to destroy the best laid plans.  You know what they are: bad weather, short attention spans, yard sales.  Wait, yard sales, you ask?  How could a yard sale conspire to destroy my plans?  One director found out the answer to that the hard way.

Three buses and one staff van left school for Regionals one fateful day.  The transports ended up separated, with buses 2 and 3 stuck behind another car.  That was no big deal, or so they thought.  Creeping up on the side of the road, however, was something none of them expected, especially the driver of the car in front of bus 2.  A yard sale, apparently a very interesting one, appeared.  The car driver stopped suddenly, fascinated by the used wares.  Bus 2 managed to slow down enough to avoid hitting the car, but bus 3 did not have enough warning.

Bus 3 crashed into the back of bus 2 while bus 1 and the staff van unknowingly left them behind.  Another motorist tracked the staff van down to alert them to the accident, and they returned to find emergency vehicles arriving at the scene.  First, of course, the director made sure there were no serious injuries.  None, which was a miracle of sorts.  The real miracle, however, would be getting to the competition on time.  If they missed the competition, they would be disqualified and could not compete in the state finals.

What happened next will instill a greater faith in humanity than you have ever had before.  First, the athletic director and cross country coaches found two other buses from the school and drove up.  Two of the competing bands sent supporting vehicles and enlisted their own band parents to take care of the logistics on site while things at the crash site were put in order.  The other seventeen bands agreed to allow them to go last so that they could get as many students ready to perform as possible.

By the time it was their turn, the band had only sixteen holes (pretty good considering the circumstances).  They ended up placing second behind one of the bands that helped them transport students.  All in all, the ordeal ended in NO broken bones and NO serious injuries, while the band still managed to qualify for Finals.  Think about next time you stop short for a yard sale!

Got your own horror story?  We’d love to hear them!

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