Browsing Tag

General Music

The Inside Voice

The Inside Voice: Sharon Burch

September 10, 2015

SharonBurchblog2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seA3jEQiWH0&list=PLZQqNNHsg4fCJcmGzA44Ys11wxkb42Qdp&utm_medium=blog&utm_source=Burchplaylist&utm_campaign=Sharon_Burch_inside_voice_blog

Sharon Burch has always been passionate about music education, especially for elementary-age students. From a young age, she loved music and wanted to bring it to others. Inspired by her own elementary music teacher, she has remained focused on music education her entire life.

She started her career in a small town in Iowa. In search of new ways to help her students retain general music lessons, Burch set out building a new curriculum aimed at developing the skills of her youngest students. Focused on building an understanding of musical language, she began to incorporate stories and visuals into her preschool music program. She started with a handmade map of “Treble Clef Island” and a frog puppet she borrowed from her daughter.

What Burch found was a remarkable improvement in her students’ retention of musical language and concepts. She also found that the children quickly fell in love with the frog and his friends. While working on research for her master’s degree, she discovered that no other teachers were using methods like hers. Encouraged by her colleagues, Burch created the first Freddie the Frog® book and accompanying CD.

The result was a nationally known and widely loved series of educational stories. She has produced five books, with a sixth installment coming soon. In a recent interview with J.W. Pepper, Burch discussed her upcoming book, Freddie the Frog® and the Invisible Coquí. This adventure brings Freddie and his friend Eli the Elephant to Salsa Island, where they learn about music and musical instruments with a Hispanic flavor.

One aim of an earlier book was to bring the world of jazz to elementary music students. Burch, a member of the Board of Directors and Chair of the Education Committee for the Jazz Education Network, believes strongly that jazz is a very valuable musical style for young music learners. It helps students combine critical thinking with creativity to build brilliantly imaginative minds. Because younger children are more open to the idea of loosely defined rules of play, they have an innate affinity for jazz as a style. According to Burch, the solid ground of music theory combined with improvised melody makes jazz ideal for preparing young minds.

Hear more from Sharon Burch and Freddie the Frog® on Pepper’s YouTube channel.

Music Advocacy

Band Camp: A Crash Course in Life Skills

August 15, 2013

Band CampFor some, band camp has concluded and the school year is underway;  for others, camp is in full swing, complete with marching and maneuvering basics, sectional rehearsals, and color guard catches.  The tail end of summer is an intense time for marching ensembles, a time that sometimes finds parents and new marching students a bit surprised by the level of commitment asked of them.  There are compelling reasons, however, to put aside other activities until November (or so) and make room for the full-time commitment marching band requires.

It’s good for you:

Being a marching musician is hard physical work.  The stamina it takes just to hold a baritone horn at attention for more than a couple minutes helps develop strength, endurance, and a willingness to muscle through tough tasks.  Building enough cardiovascular strength to dash around a football field for ten minutes straight while using every iota of breath to push notes through an instrument is something no other school activity can duplicate.  Marching music is a true marriage of artistry and athleticism a student will find nowhere else.

Lasting friendships:

Even into their adult years, many musicians who participated in marching band can cite countless treasured memories from the time they spent in their school ensemble.  For many, a band reunion would hold far more meaning than a class reunion, because in band, students find like-minded friends who work together as a team.  As a bonus, the students in band tend to be high-achieving members of the teen population, which puts kids in good long-term company.  Studies show that people who engage in healthy long-term friendships enjoy success in other life areas as well.

A commitment to the greater good:

It’s easy for teens (and adults) to become “me-centric” in a society that encourages a constant jockeying for the spotlight.  In marching band, students learn to operate as an integral part of the whole.  They must execute their individual roles to the best of their possible ability, but always with a mind toward how their instrument’s voice fits with the ensemble and how their positions on the field contribute to (or detract from) the form.  A willingness to sacrifice, to make it to rehearsal even when you don’t feel like it, or to help that struggling freshman instills skills of buy-in and empathy that will serve students in any field they might choose to pursue in their adult lives.

Resiliency:

The western world has become a padded and fluffy place where failure has taken on an ill-founded bad name.  When a student is charging across the yard lines to make a set, playing the hardest passage of music she has ever learned, and praying her shoe doesn’t come off in the mud, she might just run into a mishap.  But because there’s an entire ensemble moving on whether she has her shoe or not, she must learn the skill of recovery.  Mistakes are inevitable.  Students have the choice when errors come along to implode or to recover, and a marching ensemble has an uncanny way of demanding the mistake-maker get ‘back with the program’ quickly and seamlessly.  The recurring theme of life skills a student can learn in marching band plays yet another refrain.

Though the hours spent in rehearsal become countless, the miles on the road to football games and competitions burn more tanks of gas than imaginable, and the emotional energy required to put on the best possible performance time after time may sometimes seem overwhelming, the emotional, physical, and relational gains that come from a full commitment to a marching ensemble are equally immeasurable.  When all is said and done in November, you can count on even the most initially-reluctant student to miss band until it ramps up again next summer.

Resources you might enjoy to help your marching musicians achieve:

Leadership Success by Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, Pat Sheridan, Jon Gomez, and Scott Lang

Marching Bands and Drumlines by Paul Byer

Archive

“Fame” High School of the West: The Los Angeles County High School for the Arts

July 15, 2013

If you are reading this, it most likely means that you are either a musician or involved in some type of art form.  As a person involved in the arts there’s a very good chance that you’ve had a strong desire to create and to share your passion with others ever since you were a child.  The thought of  achieving fame or even reaching superstar status may have also crossed your mind a few times as well, right?  However, as adult reality sets in and we realize we are not all destined for stardom, many of us choose to be music and arts teachers or pursue other career goals.  Only a fortunate few end up having successful careers as performers.

The truth is that seeking fame is a daunting task and is not for the faint of heart.  One has to be very driven and determined to make a career as an entertainer.  I recently came across a documentary called Fame High by director Scott Hamilton Kennedy, who has always had an appreciation for music videos and musicals.  It’s based on the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, also known as LACHSA.

The film follows four LACHSA students for an entire year, showcasing not only how artistic and talented they are but also how challenging life at “Fame High” can be.  It features a graceful ballet dancer by the name of Grace Song who had dreams of being a part of the dance program at Julliard.  Brittany Hayes is an accomplished harp player and a great singer and songwriter, too.  Brit originally lived in Baraboo, Wisconsin with her parents and siblings until her family realized that she could only go so far with the musical training available in the little Wisconsin community.  Her mother decided to move to Los Angeles so that Brittany could attend Fame High while the rest of her family remained in Wisconsin.  Zak Rios is an amazing pianist — in the film you will see him actually going through the audition process, where over 1,000 students try out for the 150 to 180 available spots.  He does his best to balance professional jazz gigs with having to practice and study his demanding curriculum.  Ruby McCollister is the budding actress of the group.  She explains how she never really fit in at other schools, but all of that changed when she became a student at LACHSA.  Ruby grew up around the theater thanks to her parents;  Fame High shows her following in their footsteps even though she knows it may mean years as a struggling, starving artist striving to make it to the big time.

Fame High is an enjoyable movie for all ages — very entertaining, motivating, and inspiring.  Perhaps you will get a chance to see this wonderful documentary about LACHSA and discover for yourself why it’s called “the Fame High School of the West.”

http://watch.famehighmovie.com/

http://www.lachsa.net/

http://www.self.com/blogs/flash/2013/05/fiveon5-grace-song-talks-to-self-mag-editor.html

Archive

Growing up ”Southern”

July 5, 2013

My mother and grandmother were born and bred in Kentucky, something that I am most proud of.  Having a Southern heritage is something that I wear like a new suit on Easter Sunday morning – with my head held high.  We didn’t always have a lot at our house, but my mother’s five children were clean, well dressed, and well-mannered – or we didn’t sit very well the next day!

My Grandma Becky – everyone called her that, from the neighbors to all of the folks at church – was a wonderful cook.  I can still taste her homemade chocolate pies and pumpkin cake!  My mother learned from the very best!  At our house, we learned to waste nothing.  Before the fancy silver can with the black lid that said “Drippings” on it, there was just a coffee can – but there was always a can that sat near the stove, and each time bacon was fried, the bacon grease was carefully poured into that coffee can for later use in green beans, black-eyed peas, greens, almost anything.

Another tasty treat that we southerners love is butter!  I learned that butter makes everything better!  I put butter on everything from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to pop tarts (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it).  I’m not talking about that yellowish, artificial “can’t believe it’s not” stuff that I can instantly tell isn’t, but I am talking about the REAL thing.  Good, softened, melted butter just makes everything taste so good.  I guess I should probably interject here that you should not talk to your doctor about their opinion on this subject because I am sure it would differ from mine!

Oh, and iced tea!  Nothing that comes from a can or a bottle, but tea that has sat out on the porch steeping in the sun, and then has a couple cups of white sugar poured into it – just puts a smile on everyone’s face.

As you can tell, I am so proud of my heritage.  But everyone should be – for that is where we came from. It doesn’t matter what part of the country you call home, it is the memories that truly make us who we are.  Another thing that I love about being Southern is the music.  I grew up listening to country, country gospel, and southern gospel music, and I have often said that it runs deep in my veins.  Music is such a huge part of my heritage, just like butter and green beans with bacon grease cooked in them!

J.W. Pepper offers a wonderful service called e-Clubs where we send complimentary e-mails to music directors that highlight new and best-selling music as well as go-to classic repertoire to assist you in choosing materials for your choir, band, piano or whatever musical interests you have. We have e-Clubs for instrumental directors, piano teachers, and school directors, and we have them for Church Choir directors too!  We offer this great service for traditional worship, contemporary worship and blended worship, and now I am so excited that we even have one for SOUTHERN GOSPEL too!  How about that!  So it doesn’t really matter what your heritage is, we have something just for you – and all you have to do is sign up here!  Go on now… oh, and before you go, would you pass the butter?

Directors' Toolbox

Teaching Music to Deaf Students

January 22, 2013

As a musician and a person who deals with both the music business and the deaf world, I assumed as many do that students with hearing loss would never hear, understand or appreciate music.

Fortunately, as I began talking with fellow interpreters in schools, I learned that many deaf children (both with and without hearing aids and cochlear implants) were in music classes.  This was enlightening and encouraged me to investigate instrumental music classes for deaf students and the incorporation of sign language into choral programs.

One of the first schools to teach music to deaf students was the Illinois School for the Deaf.  They allowed the resident boys the opportunity to participate in a brass band.  The band was supported by state and private funds throughout its nearly twenty-year existence.  It gave students a musical outlet, provided functional music and entertainment for the other resident students as well as community members, and became a symbol of strength and ability among members of the deaf community.  Fred Fancher, a deaf bandmaster from Tennessee, conducted the band.  The band ensemble presented concerts in many towns and cities throughout the United States.  NAfME reported that the quality of the music produced by the boys was very good.  The band received a fair amount of criticism along with a vast amount of praise and was a most successful and meaningful endeavor.  Even though the band has been defunct for more than fifty years, some music classes and activities at the Illinois School for the Deaf are still offered to students.

As more and more hearing-impaired children participated in the instrumental music program, it was discovered that, like hearing children, the ability to play an instrument helped the deaf children alleviate their frustration.  Tim Lautzenhauser states in his book, The Art of Successful Teaching, “Music offers a chance to let go and express the rainbow of emotions we all feel, and through this experience expand our own realm of emotional expressions.”

The children were taught by developing a strong sense of rhythm, followed by breathing exercises, hand clapping, marching and body swaying to standard repertoire such as Old Mac Donald Had a Farm.  Some children were able to play by reading the score.  Just like with hearing children, music notations represents two things; a hand position on an instrument, and a time frame.  However, the deaf child cannot “improvise” and must depend totally on sight-reading the music.  Many deaf children remove their shoes for band or orchestra practice to be able to feel the rhythm from the other instruments.

According to the research done by Alice-Ann Darrow in 1989, schools offering music to deaf students start most students with understanding about how to keep a steady beat.  Once that concept is understood, the next step is rhythmic training, and from there they advance to notation, tempo markings, and dynamic structure.  Sound is not as much an issue as understanding the structure of music:  how the notes blend and the individual attributes of the notes, which finger positions produce a note, and how long to hold whole notes, half notes and quarter notes.

Band and orchestra instructors require support when teaching deaf students.  Parents, special education teachers, and audiologists can all offer help working with deaf students in the music classroom.  The expense of this individual support is costly and oftentimes the interpreter has no music knowledge, making the job more difficult.  As with most tasks, simply asking the deaf students what works is the best way to proceed.  Let them lead in this area of their development.

Both digital hearing aids and cochlear implants have difficulty transmitting the fine tones of musical structure to the listener.  It will be interesting to see how improvements in these aids will allow children to experience the joy of music in the future.

As the incorporation of sign language becomes more popular for both hearing and deaf children, many composers have added information about sign language (along with the actual signs) to their music.

Please view these musical selections which will help you bring signing and singing  into your musical programs.

Archive

Meet Pepper: Southern California

November 27, 2012

When tourists visit southern California, their itinerary will more than likely include must-see sights and trips to Disneyland, Hollywood and one of the many beaches that typify Los Angeles.  However, there is growing speculation that making a trip to Pepper Southern California may be trending positively within that list, probably somewhere in between Rodeo Drive and any MTV celebrity home.

Kidding aside, J.W. Pepper has had a presence in southern California since the early 1980s, with previous locations in the cities of Gardena and Santa Fe Springs.  Currently, our store is located in the beautiful city of Norwalk, about 15 miles away from Disneyland and 25 minutes from the beach.  The store also functions as a Regional Marketing Center, where we proudly serve southern California, Arizona and Hawaii.

Our team realizes that when it comes to our customers and their expectations, the little things mean everything.  We make every effort possible to ensure that our customers leave our store knowing that they can always depend on Pepper for all of their sheet music needs.  Our staff of four provides a wide spectrum of services for our customers, including organizing and implementing annual choral workshops and copyright presentations.  Other times, we play host on district in-service days to assist neighboring school districts in choosing their curricula for the year.  For the most part, the store acts as a musical treasure vault, where amateur and professional musicians browse for hours looking for updates to their musical repertoire.

The newest addition to the team is Gloria Zurita, who joined Pepper in 2010.  Gloria is a former clarinet player with an appetite for writing and photography.  Her favorite musical activity at the moment is “listening to and dissecting Eric Whitacre chords” in her car while she sits in L.A. traffic. 

Kristina Real joined Pepper in late 2005.  She played the accordion early in her childhood, as well as percussion in the school band. She is a bona fide music aficionado of nearly every genre.  If a customer is unsure about a song title, once they start to sing a measure or two, Kristina will almost always successfully “name that tune.” 

Valdemar Zamora has been with Pepper for over 20 years.  A proud family man and keyboard player, he once toured professionally with a Mexican pop group.  Presently, he shares his talents with his local church worship group as their keyboardist.

The manager of J.W. Pepper SoCal is Pepper Vice President Sam DeRenzis.  Sam earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Gettysburg College.  His involvement with the industry spans over three decades, and he has been with Pepper for over 20 years.  He is an accomplished saxophone player and a passionate fan of Major League Baseball.

Feel free to stop by whenever you’re in the area.  We would love to see you!

Visit Pepper SoCal’s website.

Hang out with us on Facebook.

History

Veterans Day 2012

November 8, 2012

Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

  • On November 11, 1918, the fighting for World War I actually stopped on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month bringing an end to what was called “The War to End All Wars.”
  • World War I, known as at the time as “The Great War,” officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919.
  • In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.
  • On June 4, 1926, the United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution.
  • Another act, approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November a legal holiday.  This was to be a day dedicated to world peace and to be known as Armistice Day.
  • As World War II and then the Korean War followed, on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars, now known as Veterans Day.
  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day Proclamation on October 8, 1954.
  • The Uniform Holiday Bill, which was intended to give federal employees several three-day weekends, was signed on June 28, 1968, moving the observance of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October.
  • On September 25, 1971, President Gerald R. Ford signed a law returning the annual observance of Veterans Day to November 11, beginning in 1978.

As the son of a World War II Army veteran, I am extremely proud of my father, and all veterans, for the sacrifices he endured.  To this day, he presents inspiring programs and musical concerts to his community, constantly stressing the importance of this day and this great country.

On behalf of the entire J.W. Pepper family, we thank all veterans for your sacrifice and dedication to this great country.  If you encounter a veteran or an individual currently serving in the military, please take a moment to thank them for everything they have done – or are currently doing – to ensure future freedoms for us all.

Read more about the history of Veterans Day, from The Department of Veteran Affairs.

Archive

Pass the Pepper, Please

October 23, 2012

Are you a music teacher or director?  If so, would you “Like” to win a $1,000 Pepper Gift Card?

Simple enough, right?  Actually, it is!

Through May 1, 2013, we are running a sweepstakes to win a $1,000 gift card.  All you need to do is visit facebook.com/JWPepper, “Like” us, and enter our “Pass the Pepper” sweepstakes to win.  That’s it, there really is no catch… and you get information about music, music education and Pepper services as part of the deal!

Actually there is one catch, but it’s a good one.  After you register, we want you to “Pass the Pepper” by sharing this offer with other music directors or teachers in your organization so you have more chances to win!  It really is that easy, honest.  So now please enter and …

The Pepper Difference

Our National Customer Service Center

October 19, 2012

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.

When the department was created in the fall of 1981, most orders were placed through the mail, which was quickly enhanced by toll-free phone calls.  Now emails and web orders drive a large portion of our business.

The WATS (Wide Area Telephone Service) department years later became Service Assurance, which placed a stronger emphasis on customer service.  The current name, Customer Service Representatives (better known as CSR), handles all different types of customer orders, issues, and details.  No matter what the name, the focus has always remained the same:  to provide the best customer service experience possible.

Our staff members come into the department with solid musical education, music experience or customer service backgrounds.  With thirty-two people split between our Paoli, Pennsylvania and Grand Rapids, Michigan offices, we collectively have just shy of 300 total years’ worth of experience!  It takes eleven shifts and sixteen lunch periods to maximize their available time for customers.  At peak times of the year, employees from our national headquarters and Regional Marketing Centers provide additional support to manage the spikes in customer contact volume.

When you need us, we are available Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time, and on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time at 1-800-345-6296.  However, reaching us 24/7 through jwpepper.com, satisfaction@jwpepper.com, voicemail or by fax at 1-800-260-1482 are always additional options.

In addition to total customer coverage, the department handles many different tasks, all relating to customer service.  We interface with customers through phone calls, mail, fax, voicemail, emails, web orders, technical support, library orders, Wingert-Jones Publishing and our latest venture, BandMerchNow.com.

So the next time you contact us, we hope this gives you a better picture of the diverse demands our customer service representatives are prepared to handle, all in the interest of serving you, our customer.

 

Archive

World Teachers’ Day – October 5, 2012

October 3, 2012

Internationally recognized as World Teachers’ Day, October 5 is a special day to celebrate the essential role of teachers.  Established by UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization), we celebrate today by recognizing all teachers, especially music teachers, who constantly provide quality education to students at all educational levels.

The organization strives to address the rights and responsibilities of teachers by setting international standards for education, employment and recruitment.  Assessing and improving overall teaching and learning conditions is also a strong part of the process.  Since 1994, this has become highly regarded as an important set of guidelines for improving the status of teachers worldwide and helping them invest in the overall goal of improving the quality of education for all students.

Thank you teachers throughout the world for everything you do every day.  Enjoy World Teachers’ Day!