On the field, in the stands, or on the street, the Sousaphone is one of the most recognizable instruments in the world. Now a staple of show bands and parades, the instrument had its start in the late 1800s as a piece in John Philip Sousa’s Peerless Concert Band. As the name suggests, Sousa himself conceived the instrument, but the identity of the original manufacturer of the Sousaphone was disputed between C.G. Conn and J.W. Pepper.
Ever wonder who’s on the other end of your phone call, email, fax, or mail order when you contact J.W. Pepper? Ever wonder who staffs these areas for 12 ½ hours a day and 10 hours on Saturdays? We are extremely fortunate to have many dedicated employees with a lot of experience, passion and drive to help you with your music needs.
We’re happy to announce My Score, an exciting new service that helps composers make their music available for sale through the Pepper network!
Thousands of choral directors are gathered this week in in Chicago for the 2011 American Choral Directors Association National Conference.
We’ve all performed music that inspires us and touches those that hear it in a special way. By our very nature as musicians, we love to collaborate with others. Here at Pepper, we want to give you a place to share your tips, suggestions and recommendations about music, so we now offer customer reviews on our website!
Monday kicked off National Customer Service Week! As part of showing our appreciation for the folks here who work hard every day to support you, we wanted you get to know them better. We recently asked those of us in our customer service department to answer the question, “What does music mean to me?” The responses showed music means a plethora of different things to different people, yet is a common language, regardless of whether or not a person is musically inclined. Here are a few quotes from the staff:
“Music sees no stereotypes, generations, cultures or languages.” — Jen
“Music brings me back to the center of my heart.” — Sue
“Music brings the purest emotions to the surface.” — Angie
“Music is a happy and peaceful side of life.” — Mary
“Music has the power to change lives.” — Nancee
“Music bridges the gaps that are otherwise left open.” — Jenn
So next time you are speaking with one of us on the phone, remember these are the thoughts we come to work with every day. We have a real passion for music that inspires us to support you in your musical pursuits.
Back in 1995, a call to my phone began as many do, with an enthusiastic musician hunting for music for their next performance. In this case, the musician was a sweet sixty-something gentleman named Clarence Cantini from Galveston, Texas. Clarence and I immediately connected musically, with him tapping my opera experience as we searched for music he had heard that he felt would work well for his tenor voice. After a while, I suggested he send me a copy of some of the CD track listings that interested him so I could continue the research. Sounds like typical workday stuff, right? But what follows is dear to me and I want to share it with you.
You see, once I was able to help Clarence find his music, he and I became pen pals of sorts. He would send me lists of music he wanted to sing and I’d find it for him. Over time, the notes he included with his lists revealed his life — his love of family and music. He sent copies of his progams, which ranged from Michael Crawford hits to the classics. He and his wife and I began exchanging Christmas cards, and when he would call the office, he would tell others to “just tell Cecelia it’s her friend from Texas.”
In 2001 my travels took me back to my hometown of Beaumont, Texas where I sang at the Julie Rogers Theater for the Performing Arts. Imagine my surprise when after the concert Clarence and his wife Sue stopped by to congratulate me. They had traveled more than an hour to be there. It was at this concert that they met my mother, who just loved them and also developed a close friendship.
So fast forward a few more Christmas cards to September of 2008. Hurricane season. Like everyone in the country, I watched video of the damage Hurricane Ike unleashed on Galveston. I worried about my friends. I tried to call them often, but got no answer. Worse yet, no Christmas card came that December.
Never being one to shy away from a challenge, I put Google to work! I searched repeatedly for any listing about Clarence and Sue. And, lo and behold! I found a Texas newspaper listing a special birthday celebration for Clarence, complete with an address! It was important I find them now, not only to know they were ok, but to let them know my mother, their friend, had passed away.
I’ll never forget that day I called them. They told me I was a ray of sunshine after all they had been through. They had been forced out of their home by the hurricane and were suffering from ailments that sometimes come with age. I cried a bit with relief to find they were ok. After a bit, Clarence quietly told me he had lost something very precious in the storm — his music. He didn’t know where to start to replace it. That’s when I told him not to worry. I had saved everything he ever sent me in a folder with his name on it. We went through the list, and we started our musical adventure all over again.
Since that time our connection has only deepened. I still have my “Clarence” folder, which is pink, since that would indicate it’s from The Diva’s desk, and by now most of the papers are yellowed. But I’m hanging on to this folder, looking forward to the next call from my friend from Texas.
We don’t often write about our own folks in our blog, but in this case, we’ll make an exception. This spring, we lost a pillar of our company with the passing of Dean Carter Burtch. Dean was a boy when his father was involved in buying the company from the Pepper family in 1941. By then, the Pepper family was not able to sustain the business due to the early death of Howard Pepper, son of company founder James Welsh. The company changed hands from one family to another, and remains in the Burtch family today.
While that explains how Dean ended up at Pepper, it doesn’t explain what Dean has done for us here at Pepper, and what he has meant to the greater music community. Dean was past owner, Chairman, and President of the company. He also served as President of the Music Publishers Association of the United States, and was recently honored with their Lifetime Achievement Award. According to Robert Murphy, Vice President of Information Systems, “Dean had a great appreciation for music. His driving force was to promote music education and provide teachers with the tools to foster future prodigies.”
His influence is evident throughout the company today. Early on in my music teaching career I was impressed by the warm, family feel to the company, and as an educator, was touched how often people at Pepper talked about making things easier for teachers. Service is a word casually tossed about by many companies, but honestly, at Pepper it is not just marketing jargon, it’s a way of life. Dean’s kindness, gentle wit, his support of the arts, and the trust he placed in his staff created a marvelous company culture where we help customers, and each other, every day.
Dean, an avid sailor, “was an easy leader to follow, whether in the board room or the wheel house. If you were able, he made sure you learned how to drive the boat,” commented Lee Paynter, the company’s Chief Operating Officer.
Thank you, Dean, for all you have done for us. Your influence will be felt in the company and throughout the music community for many generations to come.
Watch a short interview with Dean: Dean Burtch NAMM Oral History Video
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.
If there’s one drawback for a company whose customers span the globe, it’s in getting folks to really know you. After all, what does an elementary class in San Jose know about our hard-working people?