Browsing Tag

music student

The Inside Voice

The Inside Voice: The U.S. Army Brass Quintet

July 1, 2016

With the nation’s birthday approaching, it is appropriate to celebrate the men and women of the United States military, without whom we would not have the many comforts and freedoms we often take for granted. It takes all kinds of people to make our armed forces the elite presence it is in the world, and we honor each of their contributions, thanking them for all that they do for us.

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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

Music Advocacy

“I Love the J.W. Pepper!”

July 2, 2013
"I love the J.W. Pepper"

"I love the J.W. Pepper" - click to enlarge

“I love the J.W. Pepper!”  –  quite possibly the best testimonial we have had the pleasure of receiving from a customer – or perhaps future customer.  This was only one of many wonderful things Eddie from Godfrey Elementary School in Wyoming, Michigan had to say about J.W. Pepper in a letter he wrote to us shortly after being crowned the winner of our Music in Our Schools Month coloring contest and receiving his prize – a box of music games for his school. 

Pepper of Michigan has hosted this contest every March for the past four years as a means of advocating and celebrating music education.  The contest has grown exponentially each year, resulting in over 1,100 submissions in 2013!  We lovingly hang the colorful array of tubas, pianos, harps, trumpets, conductors and music notes up on our store walls as they come pouring in so that all who walk through the doors can enjoy them.  It brings us great joy to see how creative and imaginative the kids who submit coloring pages to us can be.  Oftentimes, the outline of the image meant to be colored serves only as a conduit for the child’s creative vision and we’ll see an entire orchestra drawn around a conductor, an intricate pattern drawn on a harp player’s gown, or in Eddie’s case – an electric guitar so spectacularly decorated that Les Paul would have nodded his head in approval. 

As you can imagine, the process of narrowing all of these wonderful submissions down to select just one winner is a pretty tough task, but also quite rewarding.  Heartwarming exclamations of “I love music,” “Music is my life,” and “My music teacher is my favorite” can be seen on many of the pages we receive. 

Eddie's winning guitar

Eddie's winning guitar - click to enlarge

We can only imagine how wonderful the teachers themselves must feel when it comes time to collect their students’ work, and they see for themselves what a difference they’re making in the lives of these children.  Music in Our Schools Month is not only a way to raise awareness, but is a celebration of the hard work and dedication that music teachers give on a daily basis.  That same hard work and dedication is reflected in the incredible work of these music students who are inspired by their teachers, and also by music.  We can think of no better advocates!

A huge “Thank you!” goes out to Eddie’s music teacher, Dawn Downing, for taking the time to send Eddie’s letter as well as some pictures of the two of them opening their box of games.  Most of all, thank you for being such an inspiration! 

For your enjoyment, here is Eddie’s beautiful guitar and a copy of the letter he sent to us.

Culture

The Rite of Spring – An Appreciation

May 14, 2013

Igor StravinskyAs I write these words, we are no more than a few days away from the hundredth anniversary of one of the great events in musical history. May 29, 1913 was the date of the first performance of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, one of the most tumultuous first performances ever.  The Paris performance was by the company known as the Ballets Russes, whose founder and leader Sergei Diaghelev specialized in bringing together the latest in music, dance, costume and design.  The orchestra was conducted by Pierre Monteux, accompanying new choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky.

As was noted by many people who were at this first performance, a murmur of protest began in the audience from the very start of the music, which increased and redoubled as the dancers appeared in primitive costumes.  Half the audience appealed for order, and the other half violently protested the music.  The uproar grew into fistfights, and the police were called to keep order.

For my part, I first heard the Rite as a teenage high school student.  With some curiosity, I borrowed the LP recording by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic from the public library.  I had never heard the work and was astonished at what I was hearing, and that music could be like this, so different from high school music appreciation classes or from the Haydn and Heller of my piano lessons.  I listened to the recording over and over, with fascination and amazement, not believing that such a piece could actually have been created, and longing to hear it in live performance.  A year later, I did manage to hear it in concert, by the Cleveland Orchestra conducted by Lukas Foss.

Hearing the Rite led me to listen to and to learn from other challenging works of music, and to begin to appreciate the effect that music could have on one’s very existence.  If a single work could be said to change someone’s life, it was The Rite of Spring that did it for me.

In a future blog, I will delve into the details and differences of the varying editions of this work.

Read Part 2: The Rite of Spring at 100

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

The Midwest Clinic: Postlude

January 17, 2013

The 66th Annual Midwest Clinic for band and orchestra was a huge success!  Meeting many of our customers and putting a face to a name is always exciting.  Thank you for stopping by the Pepper booth to check out our exclusive offerings like our Editors’ Choice Online,  and to introduce composers to our new My Score program.

We were please to sponsor several sessions and book signings with quite a group of talented authors and musicians.

In this day in age, more and more band directors find themselves taking on the role of choir director as well.  Russ Robinson’s  clinic, based on his book I Know Sousa, Not Sopranos!, gives insight to band directors in this situation.  After his clinic, Russ stopped by our booth and met some directors who do exactly this.

Frank Battisti, the author of Winds of Change II: The New Millennium examined the American wind band from 2000 – 2010.  This man is a legend!  During his in-booth book signing, there was a line of customers waiting to meet him for the entire hour!  His philosophies are inspiring for all.

Mark Fonder, the author of Patrick Conway and His Famous Band, took time to speak with every person who wanted to talk with him.  His insight and knowledge on Conway, a post-Civil-War-era band director, is extensive.

We also had book signings with Gary Stith, author of Score Rehearsal Preparation, and Edward Lisk, author of The Musical Mind of the Creative Director.  We enjoyed having them in our booth!

If you missed our annual handbook of all the music performed at the clinic, here’s a second chance to have this critical Midwest Clinic information.  We look forward to seeing you again next year, and in the meantime wish everyone great musical success!

Russ Robinson                     Frank Battisti                       Mark Fonder                           Edward Lisk

Archive

The Midwest Clinic – A Preview

December 18, 2012

The 66th annual Midwest Clinic is this week! The theme for this year’s famed International Band and Orchestra Conference is “In Honor of Our Mentors,” and some important figures in band and orchestra music will be in attendance.

Wynton Marsalis, internationally acclaimed musician and advocate of the arts, will be presenting the keynote address and holding an open rehearsal as part of the jazz track.  In keeping with the theme, the conference is encouraging people to email tributes about their own special mentors to info@midwestclinic.org. These tributes will be posted on The Midwest Clinic web site.

One of the reasons to attend Midwest is for the concerts.  The great United States Air Force Band under the direction of Colonel Larry H. Lang will have their first performance at 5:30 Wednesday evening.  Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser will guest conduct the band at this concert, which will include a performance of the Commando March by Samuel Barber.

The Air Force Band will perform a second concert at 7:30 the same evening.  In this performance, Sergeant Ben Park will be singing The Star Spangled Banner,” and the Air Force Saxophone Quartet will be performing “Concerto Grosso for Saxophone Quartet” composed by William Bolcom.  Both concerts will certainly be worth attending!

While this historic conference is known for the concerts, make sure to save time to visit the exhibit hall. In particular, stop by Pepper booth 904 to pick up your Midwest Brochure, which provides you with title information and an easy reference guide of all the published works being performed at the conference.  The conference floor is open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, and Friday hours are 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Book signings will also be popular events with the following composers scheduled for time in our booth:

Mark Fonder (Patrick Conway and his Famous Band) – Thursday at 12:45 p.m.

Edward S. Lisk (The Musical Mind of the Creative Director) – Friday at 11:15 a.m.

Gary Stith (Score and Rehearsal Preparation) – Friday at 3:15 p.m.

Frank Battisti – Thursday, right after his session, from 2:45 – 3:45 p.m.

Russ Robinson – Friday, right after his session, from 9:45 – 10:45 a.m.

Pepper loves being a part of the Midwest tradition. We look forward to seeing you at McCormick Place West for the 2012 Midwest Clinic. You don’t want to miss it!

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.

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.