Did you ever get the feeling someone is talking about you? Well, this time of year you are being talked about plenty here at Pepper. For a span of about three months, our music editors sequester themselves amidst stacks of scores and read through every note, hunting for high-quality music for your school, community and church music programs. While music is published year ’round, the lion’s share of new music is composed by springtime so it can be in your hands in time for the fall season.
Here’s a glimpse into the life that is review season at Pepper: First we bring together music editors from around the country, each with the background and skills to ascertain musical style, difficulty, and usefulness to the ensembles performing it. Enter — you. We think about you alot. We examine closely how you responded to our picks from previous years, and we’re very careful to keep worthy pieces in the catalogs. Can you imagine dropping Mozart’s Requiem or a Holst Suite from the catalog? Neither can we.
So, at this point, now that we know what music has worked for many directors, we begin the process of combing through new scores to find music that also lives up to the standard you set. You see, while we choose the music, it’s you that sets the standard. Yes, we are musicians, but there is a fair amount of statistical information we examine to see important trends, performance patterns, and loyalty amongst performing groups. We couldn’t possibly print a catalog that covers every piece every director out there loves, but we’re pretty good at creating catalogs with a wide variety of music appealing to many directors.
The review sessions last all day long, with song following song. We talk amongst ourselves, write comments about the music, and discuss merits of the works with the publisher. It’s the musical equivalent of taking the SATs. We draw upon all our experience and knowledge and give our best answer. We have one chance to get it right, and our business quite literally depends upon it. There’s no time for “do-overs,” as we see on average 18,000 new publications a year. In the end, we’ll end up featuring over 10,000 titles in our choral catalogs and 5,000 in our band and orchestra catalogs. Phew! None of this could happen without three things: our unyielding passion for music, the professionalism of our review team, and caffeine.
So, back to you. What mix of serious literature and pop tunes will you want this year? Some directors view popular music with disdain, and for others it’s a vital part of their programming. Have we provided enough variety in our suggestions to fill out your program? Is there music to challenge your group? Does the music put your performers in a good light? Is the concept of the work clear — text, notes and all? You are very demanding, as well you should be. You are the one that stands at the podium.
There are as many opinions on musical quality as there are music directors, and we know that no one catalog can be everything to everybody. If our catalogs save you time and serve as a great starting place for your musical exploration, then we have done our jobs well. And don’t worry, if you love to explore beyond the catalogs, we welcome you to do so. Our website has the largest collection of printed music in the world. We’re happy to provide anything that works well for your group, even if it’s not in a catalog.
When our editors finish their annual quest for new music, they’ll find that it is summer (and likely wonder what happened to all the snow). They will have created the finest print music catalogs in the world. We trust their efforts support your work as a music director.