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J W Pepper

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Meet Pepper: North Carolina

December 13, 2011

Welcome to our new blog series! We would like to introduce you to all fourteen of our regional stores, representing all areas of the country, Canada, and indeed the world.  First up is the Pepper store located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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Archive

‘Tis A Gift

October 19, 2010

I recently enjoyed a Ballston Spa Community Band concert while attending the New York State School Music Conference in Albany, New York.  Prior to the concert, I had the opportunity to meet the conductor, Ms. Tracy DeRagon.  One of the pieces programmed generated a rather interesting conversation.  The name of the ninth piece on the program was ‘Tis a Gift by Anne McGinty.  This piece holds special meaning in the hearts of both the composer and to many Pepper employees, so I shared the story with Tracy.

On July 17, 1996, three band students from the Montoursville Area High School (Northern Pennsylvania) tragically lost their lives aboard TWA Flight 800.  Following a memorial concert held shortly after the accident, members of the band suggested the idea of a dedicatory work.  With this in mind, we were contacted to make this idea a reality.  We approached composer Anne McGinty about writing a commissioned work, and she eagerly agreed to write the piece to honor and celebrate the students’ lives.  At that point we decided both the composer’s worldwide royalties as well as all proceeds from Pepper’s sale of the piece would be donated to the band’s ‘Tis a Scholarship Fund for Music Education.

Return now to the Ballston Spa band concert in 2010.  Before each piece, the conductor shared personal stories and introductions about each piece.  When it was time for ‘Tis a Gift, she shared our conversation with the audience.

Attending this concert left me with a very special feeling and I felt truly honored to be part of a special cause that transcends music and still has meaning today.

The Pepper Difference

What Music Means to Us

October 7, 2010

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:
Customer Service Department

“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.

Archive

Tomorrow’s Mr. Holland

September 9, 2010
Plan a trip

Plan a field trip to Pepper!

One of the cool things about working in a music store is meeting the different musicians who visit.  A music store is a hub, a melting pot resource for those carving out their niches within an industry that is constantly changing.  This is especially true for college music students who embody the next generation of professional composers, teachers, and players.

Savvy college music professors will often bridge the gap with their curriculum so that students are somewhat prepared for entering their careers.  One such teacher is Mr. Dale Wolford, an Instrumental Methods professor at San Jose State University here in Northern California.  His class prepares music education majors for future directing roles by discussing core repertoire for bands and orchestras, rehearsal techniques, and pedagogy.  Wolford is a player at heart and strives to give his students a “real-world” sense of what they can expect as professional music teachers.  The value of this cannot be measured as California’s arts education climate faces its ups and downs.

Part of this reality lesson comes as a class trip to their local J.W. Pepper branch, the store I manage here in Dublin, California.  Every spring Dale creates an assignment that requires research to be done while here in the store.  I lead his class on a tour and answer questions about the services Pepper has to offer to them as music teachers.  It’s a fun day for all… they learn to realize their potential, and I get to give back to the music teacher community that brought me up as a young musician.

If you are a college music teacher I encourage you to schedule a class visit to your local Pepper store.  Contact the manager and consider assigning an in-store project that requires them to peruse our shelves of music.  If you aren’t within easy driving distance of our stores, try an assignment using our online database as a tool.  We welcome you to do so, and would be glad to help you set something up.  Repertoire research empowers your students with a real-life skill that will help them become better music teachers.

Archive

The Power of “Glee”

August 5, 2010
 
Glee

Glee

Don’t Stop Believin’, Jump, Somebody to Love, Sweet Caroline, Can’t Fight This Feeling — these songs have two things in common: 

  1. They have all been performed on the hit television show Glee
  2. They are all featured in J.W. Pepper’s 2010-2011 Editors’ Choice choral series.

I took some time today to listen to some of the incredible arrangements that have emerged in the newest recordings and found myself pondering the significance of shows such as High School Musical and Glee from a music education standpoint.

I read that a poll by the National Association for Music Education this past February showed that 43 percent of choral directors surveyed saw an increase in interest amongst students to join their ensembles due to the popularity of Glee.  I have also read several stories about students who never would have thought to audition for show choir before becoming suddenly eager to join, citing Glee as their inspiration for doing so.  This made me wonder how many Pepper customers have experienced the “Glee” phenomenon and whether or not you feel it has helped not only to increase student interest, but also to garner support from school administrators and parents.  Have there been any shifts in attitude toward your choral programs?  Have you noticed any changes in confidence and self-esteem amongst your choir members?  Have you had to explain to your students that they won’t be able to pull off a stellar rendition from the moment you pass the sheet music out to them?  I would love to hear your stories and opinions on this subject.  Please feel free to submit them via the Comments form below.

Click here to see a partial list of titles available from Glee.

The Pepper Difference

A Lifetime of Achievement

June 22, 2010
Dean Carter Burtch

Dean Carter Burtch

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

Culture

Summer Travels

May 26, 2010

As musical activities for the year slow down, thoughts of summer fun, additional learning and exciting travel enter the thought process. While the possibilities are endless, there are some destinations and events musicians may want to consider.

I’ll start with the obvious.   We’d love you to stop by and visit your local Pepper store, or attend one of our more than 40 summer music reading sessions this summer.   It’s a nice addition to any trip you have planned,  and you’re likely to find inspiring music to consider for next season.  So, if your travels take you our way and you have time, put us on your itinerary.

Summer events: http://www.jwpepper.com/sheet-music/events

Locations:  http://www.jwpepper.com/sheet-music/services-stores.jsp

There are also some very interesting music museums throughout the country to consider.  Halftime Magazine recently provided information on some unique musical destinations to get you started:

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum – Cleveland, OH – www.rockhall.com

Musical Instrument Museum – Phoenix, AZ – www.themim.org

The Grammy Museum – Los Angeles, CA – www.grammymuseum.org

Museum of Making Music – Carlsbad, CA – www.museumofmakingmusic.org

Rhythm Discovery Center – Indianapolis, IN – www.rhythmdiscoverycenter.org

Experience Music Project – Seattle, WA – www.empsfm.org

You can find more unique possibilities by entering a Google search for Music Museums.

While you are busy exploring the possibilities, the Pepper staff will be preparing for your next musical year.  We wish you happy and safe travels!

Archive

A New Spectrum of Performance

April 28, 2010

When we think of classical music we conjure sounds of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Ravel, Wagner, and Copland, among others.  But it’s no secret that with that love of the classics often comes a noticeable hesitation to embrace contemporary classical music,  a genre encompassing works composed from the mid-1970s to the present day.

Finding an audience for modern music that is perceived as awkward and unpleasant is not easy.  Fortunately there are major orchestras that, through artist residency programs, openly support works from new composers.  But should we as listeners take a chance on contemporary classical music?  As rhetorical as this question might sound, I believe that I have nothing to lose and attempting to answer it will only help the longevity of classical music as a whole.  In other words, why not?

In this spirit of artistic adventure I attended the debut performance of The New Spectrum Ensemble, a group of San Francisco musicians founded with a mission to combine the old and the new, an innovative approach to programming that pairs classical favorites with contemporary unknowns.  The inaugural concert, held Saturday, April 17, featured the following selections: 

Spaces Between (2006) – Jen Wang

Sonata, for cello and piano – Elliott Carter (b. 1908)

Sonata for Cello and Piano in D major, op. 102 no. 2 – Ludwig van Beethoven

S.T.I.C. (1995) – Dan Becker (b. 1960)

This was a new kind of symphonic experience, an auditory buffet that introduced me to contemporary music paired with pieces that were not so contemporary, without program notes or a pre-concert lecture.  Instead, prior to each piece the members of the ensemble would demonstrate each piece’s contrasting styles through the recitation of  “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”  It was fascinating to realize the vast differences between Beethoven’s counterpoint and Carter’s complexity, explained through a well-known folk tune.

This process gave the audience a chance to learn about each piece and the composer’s creative approach that created it.  It enabled us to personalize the music as it was played, therefore making it more difficult to dismiss it as inaccessible.   Kathyrn Bates Williams, founding member and cellist, states in her blog,  “Listening to all music is important.  It distinguishes the artistic values that we appreciate and those we don’t.  It brings us surprises both good and bad.”  I can’t help but agree with her.  It’s a risk, a small risk that we take in seeing contemporary concerts, equivalent to trying a  new restaurant.

After the concert we filed into the lobby where the composers Jen Wang and Dan Becker mingled with the audience.  Suddenly it dawned on me how important it was for these two artists that there even was an audience, that it possibly didn’t matter whether or not I actually liked their music.

This is an extremely liberating concept for me as a listener and performer.  The New Spectrum Ensemble strives to promote contemporary composers, and to accomplish that it took me on a strange journey made available through their unique, tongue-in-cheek programming.   My journey might result in me not liking everything that I hear and that’s ok.  In the end all that matters is that I showed up and listened.

Meet the members of the New Spectrum Ensemble here: www.thenewspectrum.com.  Additionally, if you are interested in learning more about contemporary classical music or just looking for an informative website from one of today’s most entertaining musical thinkers, please check out Alex Ross, music writer for The New Yorker.  His website and blog are located at www.therestisnoise.com

 

Archive

The Little-Known Voice in Jazz

April 15, 2010
Jazz Resources

Jazz Resources

Are you looking for interesting ways to keep your students interested in practicing over the summer?  With the school year drawing to a close and the heat of summer already upon some of us, we’ve all noticed our students becoming a little restless.

I suspect that high school and college horn students frequently live a life of musical schizophrenia.  Religiously studying and performing classical orchestral literature — while listening to or wishing to play in a jazz ensemble.  When one pictures  jazz ensemble instrumentation, saxophones, trombones, drum set, trumpets, and double bass easily come to mind.  An instrument rarely included in this list is the horn — an unfortunate oversight.  Too often high school horn players are excluded from their jazz ensembles, or worse, persuaded to participate on trumpet!  Utilizing the horn in the jazz medium is rare but was practiced as early as the 1940s with the inclusion of  the instrument in scores for Claude Thornhill and later trumpeter Miles Davis.  Willie Ruff, Julius Watkins, John Graas, Tom Varner, Adam Unsworth are just a few on the growing list of noteworthy American horn players devoted to the genre.

Horn player, teacher and composer Lowell Shaw composed Fripperies (horn quartet) in order to teach his students at the University of Buffalo how to play in commercial styles including jazz, barbershop, and funk.  He has since increased the number of Fripperies to 40 and has also added Quipperies (horn quintet),  Tripperies (horn trio), and Just Desserts (solo horn with optional string bass).

For beginning players, the Essential Elements – Jazz series is a useful introduction to jazz notation.  In addition to horn, instrumentation also includes the less conventional  flute and tuba.  We’ll keep you posted as more jazz horn music becomes available in easy, intermediate, and advanced levels.  Maybe this is the summer your horn students spend some time playing jazz!

Archive

Where music teachers gather

April 5, 2010

Times of crisis have benefits that, although unnoticed at the time, show their value long after things return to “normal.”  As economic suppport of school music programs faces challenges, it is absolutely incredible how music teachers face the future boldy.  I recently attended the Idaho Music Educator Association Conference held in Nampa.  Despite budget problems, music teachers from all over Idaho came together for three days of clinics, sessions and concerts, and a chance to network with colleagues, thought leaders and supporters from the music industry such as Pepper.

For those of you who haven’t attended a music education conference in a while, allow me to share a snapshot of what happens there.   I’ll start with the floor of the convention hall.  While this might look like a self-serving storefront for most companies, it’s so much more than that.  The convention floor is where teachers and industry people connect directly, without barriers.  It’s where teachers have a direct voice in saying what kind of support they need in music publishing, manufacturing, fundraising and many types of music support industries.  In return, vendors have a chance to show what they’ve developed to meet educational needs.  Both parties listen and learn much at this gathering spot, and this interaction shapes future resources being developed to support music education.

We take great pride in the look and design of our convention booth.  It needs to be a conversation-starter, a portable piazza.  My Pepper booth was an indispensable way station where people would stop after attending clinics.  There were brightly colored Teaching Music through Performance books sharing table space with Peter Boonshaft’s famous tomes.  New concert band music occupied the corner and rounding out the display were fingering charts, how-to manuals, and various other books written for and by music teachers.  I particularly liked I Know Sousa, Not Sopranos, a Russell Robinson book that young band directors might need when looking for their first music teacher gig. 

The conference sessions were informative and highly entertaining, with band, choral, and orchestral topics as well as practical offerings for teachers of elementary through high school music.  Henry Leck from Butler University gave two dynamic sessions based on his book and his DVD, Creating Artistry Through Choral Excellence and Creating Artistry Through Movement, respectively.   I was happy to hear positive reviews of  An Orff Ensemble with Caribbean Steel Drums, hosted by Anita Edwards.  It wouldn’t be a music conference without a diverse range of musical flavors!  

The venerable Dr. Peter Boonshaft dropped by on Friday after a day of honor band rehearsals to say hello and sign a few of his books, namely, Teaching Music with Passion, Teaching Music with Purpose, and Teaching Music With Promise.  Peter is a renaissance musical thinker to whom I’d rather just listen and not say a word in response.  He’s the conductor everybody wishes they had as a music major.  His abilities as a storyteller are astounding… it’s no wonder that he is so busy attending conferences around the country!

As the conference wrapped up on Saturday and I was anxious to head home, I couldn’t help but feel tremendous pride for being involved with this event.  Not only did I feel we brought value to the event, but I learned much from the teachers there, and was touched by those who expressed personally their thanks for our company’s support of them.  This IMEA Conference happens once every two years, and I am already looking forward to the next one!