Posted By Brendan Lyons on March 7, 2014
It 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 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.