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Directors' Toolbox

Traveling with Your Music Department

October 13, 2016

Traveling with your school ensemble can be a wonderful experience for your students and your program. It can help deepen the social ties within your ensemble and it can help grow your program. It is also a marvelous and fun way for the director to receive some important musical feedback and observations from exceptional clinicians and adjudicators—something that is usually missing during classroom observations.

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Music Advocacy

Granting Three Wishes – The Schoener MusicMan Camp

September 18, 2015



A love of making music is ingrained in the culture of not only our nation, but the entire world. The evidence of that can be seen in our traditions, our media, and, perhaps in its purest form, in our schools. One need only spend a few minutes with an elementary band, orchestra, or choir to see the unadulterated joy created by music. Sadly, not every school can afford instruments, music, or even a small general music program. Not long ago, the township of Upper Darby, a suburb of Philadelphia, was in danger of becoming one of these schools.

The legacy of the arts in Upper Darby is dear to the heart of the community, thanks in a large part to the tireless work of dedicated individuals. One such individual was a high school music teacher named Brad Schoener, a favorite among students and beloved by the community. He was an open and caring man who saw the poor state of arts education funding in Upper Darby and wanted to do something about it. Schoener had three wishes for the children of Upper Darby school district. First, that the schools could provide them with instruments, so that money was never an obstacle. Second, he wished that any student who showed promise would have the attention he or she needed to grow musically. Lastly, Schoener wanted to create a summer camp for music students.

Sadly, Brad lost his battle with cancer in 2009, but his legacy was taken up by his wife, Jen Schoener, and many others in the community. Through the Brad Schoener Fund, thousands of dollars were raised to fulfill Brad’s three wishes. The result was instruments for anyone who wanted to play and scholarships for students who wanted further lessons. The most visible outcome, though, is the Schoener MusicMan Camp.

The Schoener MusicMan camp gives students who might not have had the opportunity to pick up an instrument and learn that chance.  Scholarships are also available from the camp to assist with students who want to further their education. The advent of the Schoener MusicMan camp also led to the Upper Darby Music Marathon, now called the Community Music Festival. This festival brings in talented individuals from all over the township to participate in a day full of music and community bonding.

No one person is responsible for the success of the MusicMan Camp; many prominent members of the Upper Darby community were instrumental. Jen Schoener has been the strongest force in the creation and continuation of the festival, but she has had great support, especially early on, from Mayor Tom Micozzie. Micozzie is a fervent believer in the importance of the arts in Upper Darby who helped to raise the initial funds for the first festival and continues to support the festival to this day.

Steve Bowman, a prominent business owner in Upper Darby, was another important supporter of the festival. In addition to helping to organize the festival, he introduced Jen to Christian Tizon, founder of BEATPEACE. Tizon had been working toward a similar goal of supporting the arts in the Upper Darby area. In tune with the local talent, Tizon helped Jen find new acts to showcase at the festival. The influx of new talent to the festival helped it grow in distinction and it began to raise even more money to fulfill Brad Schoener’s three wishes.

Today, the festival is one of the biggest events in the area, with all parts of the community participating. It helps drive the Schoener Fund, with over $28,000 being raised in just one day this past year. Few things are more inspiring than seeing a community come together, unified by a love for music and the arts. What’s more, it is humbling to think that such great things can be accomplished because of one man’s dream. If we follow in his footsteps, perhaps someday every child who longs to explore the world of music will be given a chance.

Watch the full video at the top of this blog post or on J.W. Pepper’s YouTube channel.


New Easy Fundraising Ideas from J.W. Pepper

June 27, 2013

If you’re a member of a nonprofit organization, sports team, or musical organization, chances are you’ve had to engage in a fundraising campaign at some point.  Now, I’ve only done them as a child, so I can’t speak to everything that goes into running a fundraiser from a teacher/coach/director standpoint.  I do, however, remember a few very specific things about the experience: a crowded gym, a few hundred (most likely screaming) kids, and a handful of parent volunteers with frazzled hair and tired eyes trying to sort through the products to get them to the right kids.

No doubt, your last fundraiser was similarly disorganized.  There aren’t an overwhelming number of easy fundraising ideas out there, but rest assured, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Just imagine if everything came in already sorted by seller (read: seller’s mom).  All you’d have to do is call out the names and have the kids come forward.  How many volunteers would you say you need for that?  Probably fewer than you’ve needed in the past.  Wouldn’t it be even better if you didn’t need to sort anything at all?  Imagine if you could ship directly to supporters all over the continental United States!

I don’t need to tell you how valuable that can be, but I may need to tell you who can offer those options.  Pepper Fundraising, the newest program from J.W. Pepper and Son, can do these things for you!  Here are a few facts about exactly what sets Pepper Fundraising apart from the rest.


Festivals: Dreaming, Making and Maintaining the “Magic” of Song

October 19, 2011

By guest blogger Melody Gamblin-Bullock, General and Artistic Director, Forte Dallas Choral Festival (Crescendo Arts Enterprises)

In a time where budgets are being cut, teachers being released, and programs slashed a million different ways, one must ponder… “How am I going to make music, make those magical music moments this year??”  The answer is not simple, but profound… WE MUST FIND A WAY!  The students deserve it, the culture needs it, and the future of the arts and arts programs is, indeed, ours to continue breathing life into!  Festivals provide a great opportunity to accomplish your large and small goals.  Remember, the terms “contests” and “festivals” are sometimes used interchangeably — they can be adjudicated, non-adjudicated, competitive, and even non-competitive.

Kids need something to look forward to and work towards.  Pick a festival you can participate in, be it as an individual group, or better yet, a festival where you can join with others who have your vision for the greater good of an outstanding musical experience.  Make certain that you have considered multiple financial vehicles that can help defray the expenses that accompany such endeavors and aide in your students’ enjoyment.  “How?”  you might ask.  One of the ways is to plan-Plan-PLAN.

Plan a student fundraiser… it gives them a sense of accomplishment.  Have the parents/boosters plan a fundraiser… it gives them a sense of belonging.  Think “outside the box”… with a little ingenuity the students can fund-raise their way to an experience of a lifetime.  You can hold a silent auction with a dinner included.  How about partnering with the local nursery and selling bedding plants?  Have a favorite restaurant (or two) in town?  Ask them to have a “Friends of the High School” night where they get the extra business and you get a percentage of the proceeds.  Car washes still work well.  Ever thought about promoting a nonprofit tax donation?  (Your program!!)

Let your imagination go…

From the smallest program to the largest and all the ones in between – students deserve to be part of an outstanding musical experience.  Plan that extra musical experience.  Make some “magic” in your rehearsal room and for the entire year.

Melody Gamblin-Bullock, choral music educator and conductor, is currently the Director of Choral Activities at Brookhaven College, director of the Brookhaven Choral Society, and artistic director of the Spirituals Renaissance Chorale.  While serving as assistant director of the Dallas Symphony Chorus, she prepared for noted performances with conductors Thomas Wilkins, Marvin Hamlisch, and Zap Van Zweden.  She also developed a Sight-reading Initiative for the Dallas ISD, and remains in demand as a consultant, in-service clinician and adjudicator to school districts in Texas and throughout the Southwest.  She is presently pursuing doctoral studies at Texas Tech University.  She also serves as a member of the Irving (Texas) Arts Board, and has taught in the music departments of Texas Christian University and Texas Tech University.  Professional affiliations include the American Choral Directors Association, Texas Choral Directors Association, Texas Music Educators Association, and Sigma Alpha Iota international music fraternity.


One Joyful Choir

January 6, 2011
One Joyful Choir

One Joyful Choir

On a November Saturday afternoon, a group known as One Joyful Choir came together in song to raise money for a hospital in Haiti.  Consisting of 500 singers from over 130 Presbyterian churches from the southeast region of Pennsylvania, the singers performed at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, located in the heart of Philadelphia.  The event, dubbed Hallelujahs for Haiti, was created by the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Organization to raise money for earthquake relief — specifically to support Hôpital Sainte Croix in Léogâne, Haiti.

According to the One Joyful Choir’s website, “the presbytery is encouraging all churches and members to work together, sharing gifts and resources.”  The overall concept was intended to provide people with an opportunity to spread fellowship and joy, while giving singers an opportunity to praise God and worship through the gift of music.  This was the third year for this glorious event.  The 2007 concert raised over $40,000 used to assist those in need around what is known as The City of Brotherly Love.  This year the proceeds were used for Haitian earthquake relief.

Hallelujahs for Haiti was conducted by Dr. Pearl Shangkuan, a professor at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The choir was accompanied by Andrew Senn, organist for the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, with piano, brass, and percussion used to accompany the massive choral production.  Thirteen choral pieces were performed during the concert, including Jeffrey Honore’s composition “How Can I Keep from Singing” and Moses Hogan’s “We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace.” An organ and church music professor from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota by the name of John Ferguson also composed an anthem for the concert.  One Joyful Choir began rehearsing for this magnificent event many months prior, with all affiliated with the program devoting a great deal of their talent and time to provide beautiful music for a worthy cause.

Click here to visit the choir’s website.


On a tight budget?

March 26, 2010

We all know music budgets are stretched thin.  Did you know J.W.Pepper can help you?  Here’s an idea passed along to us from one of our customers.  On our website we have a section titled Music Lists  (  With Pepper Music Lists you can create public or private lists for your students, colleagues, parents, congregations and supporters.  Sometimes you want to share a list for someone to buy the right music for themselves, but one of our creative customers found a way to use our music lists to boost their group’s music library.

Consider creating a list of music on your wish list for your organization.  What better place to start than with children’s groups and local community groups?  Once an item is purchased you can type in a thank you online next to the title they donated.  We also offer fundraising brochures and sample announcements online to urge your supporters to donate.  The customer who came up with this idea also printed a special thank you to individuals and families who made donations to their concert program.

Have a good idea to build your library?  Share it with us here.