Browsing Tag

music teacher


Adrianna Svitak: Child Prodigy and Educator

November 24, 2010

Is it possible for music education to expand the minds and imagination, as well as inspire the creative energy of today’s youth?  Let’s take a close look at a young lady who is a great example of what can happen when she is provided with the proper tools to be successful.  Music has been a part of 15-year-old Adrianna Svitak’s life from an early age.  Adrianna started playing the piano at the ripe old age of five and began playing the violin at age six.  Young Miss Svitak has been able to master both instruments very well, and she’s had the opportunity to participate in musical events such as a Bach Festival, the Northwest Chopin Festival, the Music Teachers National Association, and Seattle, Washington’s Young Artists Festival.  Over the years, Adrianna’s musical talents have been recognized in several piano and violin competitions.  She has also received quite a few honors along with prestigious awards because of her strong talents as a musician.

Adrianna is not just what some might consider to be a child prodigy but she been an accomplished music teacher since the age of nine, teaching piano to beginning students and later developing a clientele of violin students as well.  She uses the exact same music techniques that helped her become a polished violinist and pianist.  Adrianna provides piano and violin lessons to students her age and younger, bringing her sensitivity to the apprehension many first-time music students feel.

Adrianna  also performs at fundraising events, as well as special school activities and enjoys playing classical pieces by composers Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Grieg, Liszt, Prokofiev, and Tchaikovsky.

It seems like there’s nothing the young Miss Svitak cannot do.  Her poetry and artwork are on display on her website.  Plus, she has co-authored a book called Dancing Fingers, which she wrote with her 13-year-old sister Adora, who has been writing short stories, poetry, and other literary works since she was six years old.  Adrianna and Adora Svitak’s parents must be thrilled to have a couple of very talented children in the household.

Surely, Adrianna shows how education and hard work  can expand the mind, create endless possibilities, and lead to success for today’s youth.

Click here to read more about Adrianna.


Enter Our Facebook Drawing!

October 15, 2010

 Psst… spread the word!   Enter your group for our Facebook sweepstakes called “Put Your Group on Canvas.”  A few J.W. Pepper employees put their creative resources together to offer you a chance to display your music ensemble’s photograph on a top-quality, large canvas!    The winning organization’s  photograph will be professionally printed on a 30″ x 40″ canvas, and mounted on a sturdy wood frame. 

If you’ve visited one of our stores, you’ve seen this type of canvas print decorating our walls.  Just imagine how excited your music students are going to be when they see an impressive portrait with their musical talents on display for all to enjoy.

Click here  to enter and to view contest details. 

Select the sweepstakes tab to enter the “Put Your Group on Canvas” drawing, which runs through  October 31, 2010.  Five winners will be randomly selected.    The prizes are valued at $100, and will be shipped free of charge to each of the five winners.

This is a golden opportunity to let your music ensemble’s talents shine!  Good luck!


Stringing Along

September 20, 2010

Stringing Choral Folders:

“First, take the metal tip of the string and loop it under the claw…”

If you have to string choral folders to securely hold your music, you’ll want to watch this video!   Some choral folders are sold with an accompanying bundle of strings that can leave you thinking, “If I can lace shoes then I can string a folder, right?”   Well, after years of answering customer questions about stringing choir folders, I thought a how-to video may help.   And just so you know, the first time I tried to string a choral folder, the metal tabs were sticking out in odd ways, waiting to catch on my clothing.  I instantly felt like that kid trying to learn to tie my shoes.

Once strung, the folders are a great cure for the “spilled folder” effect or the “dig and find” recovery method stringless folders can cause.  The center strings secure octavos and allow you to neatly organize pieces you are currently working on.  The additional storage pockets work well to hold additional pieces that you may want to carry.   I know I sound like an advertisement, but hey, I work in the advertising department, so why not?

I hope you enjoy the video, and I wish you many happy concerts!

Click here for information about our 501 choral folders.

Click here for information about our 701 choral folders.



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.


Choral Conversations: Mary Lynn Lightfoot

August 31, 2010
Mary Lynn Lightfoot

Mary Lynn Lightfoot

Mary Lynn Lightfoot is the Choral Editor for Heritage Music Press, a composer, an educator and an extremely funny woman.  She has over 230 published choral compositions, and has received an ASCAP Award annually since 1988.  Mary Lynn graciously agreed to be interviewed for our Choral Conversations blog in between her many clinics and events this summer.  Here are highlights of the interview: (All answers are paraphrased)

When did you begin in music?   I started taking piano lessons when I was four and continued up through high school.  I was actively playing piano all the time.  I played at church and I played for the local Kiwanis club every Tuesday.  I also accompanied my high school choir.  My mother is a retired music teacher, so that is where the musical influence directly came from.  Her parents were very musical as well.  It all started with learning how to play piano, which I think is the absolute most important tool any musician can possess.

Did you have an “ah-ha” moment when you knew you wanted to be a musician?   I was so involved in music throughout my entire school years that it was such a part of me.  When I left to go to college, my intent was to be a doctor, actually a surgeon.  I went to college on a French Horn scholarship, and was so involved in the music department, I ended up staying there and I never looked back.  Music is such a part of me, it is just who I am.

What kind of things inspire you?  First and foremost, young people.  I began writing because I was a music teacher, and  started writing out of need for my kids to have something decent to sing, especially at the middle school level.  During the early to mid ’70s, there wasn’t a lot out there for that age.  Art also inspires me.  I am an avid fan and love many things, from the classics to the very modern.  I love the glass sculpture of Dale Chihuly.  In music and in art, I like things that cover a really wide and diverse spectrum.  Very eclectic.

Do you miss teaching?  Absolutely! I didn’t stop teaching because I didn’t like it.  Geoff Lorenz called me one day and said “I’d like to hire you,”  so I moved from teaching to explore a part-time editorial position with Heritage Music Press.  I miss the kids and I miss everything about teaching.  I sometimes have an intern that I work with, and of course work with singers in festivals and honor choirs that helps satisfy that need.

What would you say defines your style?   My style is accessible quality and features melodic lines.  I hope my style is interesting, and that it incorporates quality lyrics.  I write for where I think there is a need.  I am very careful and concerned about the lyrics as well as my accompaniments.

Tell me one thing that people might not know about you.  I’m a huge college basketball fan, I just love watching it.

What are you working on right now?  As we speak, I am working on a commission for a high school in Texas.  It is going to be a celebratory piece to honor the first graduating class of this new high school.  It is SATB with children’s choir, trumpet and keyboard.

Do you have any advice or tips for those interested in composing?   Certainly!  How long do we have?  First, I would encourage those that have the interest to avidly pursue it.  It is a very fun and interesting journey.  I love to encourage new writers.  New doesn’t necessarily mean young.  Maybe there is a retired teacher that has always wanted to pursue writing.  New writers first need to have a grasp of the style in which they write.  They need to be able to answer some questions.  What kind of music do I write?  What market do I write for?  What age group or groups are my specialty?  Then you need to familiarize yourself with the music of different publishers, because each publisher has for the most part a specific style.  For example, if you’ve written a pop tune, you shouldn’t send that to Heritage Music Press, we don’t do that.  Vice-versa, if you send a concert piece to a publisher that mostly does pop, that’s not going to work either.  So, study the different publishers and then send your piece to the one that most closely resembles your style of music.  Don’t think that what you write is set in stone.  Be flexible and willing to make changes and work with an editor.  I did an interview for the ACDA Choral Journal that may be very helpful for new composers.  It is in the February 2009  issue and it is called Perspectives on Publishing Choral Manuscripts. We talked about how to get a piece published.

Would you say that music comes to you more often through slow, careful planning or sudden inspiration?   I think it happens both ways.  I think it depends on whether what I’m writing is something I want to write, that can just be sudden inspiration.  When you’re writing a commission, you have to plan and set down the parameters — you have to know: What is the voicing?  What is the purpose of the piece?  What do they want?   Next you find or write the text and then, of course, inspiration is going to hit.

What is your favorite part of composing?   Now, this is something else people might not know about me.  I love the solitude that composing provides.  Now, that may be a little selfish, but I love what I call “going into lock-up” — finding that text, and then when I’ve found the melodic part of the piece that I think people will walk away humming or whistling, that excites me.  When the piece finally comes to fruition, it is a huge emotion for me.  Writing for me is an extremely emotional experience.  It is in a very positive way, draining — always in a positive way.  To think that I can be a vessel through which musical ideas flow, well it is extremely comforting.

Quickfire questions (partially stolen from James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio)

What is your favorite word?   Possibilities

What is your least favorite word?   Negativism

What sound or noise do you love?  Mountain streams

What sound or noise do you hate?   Disrespectful ones

What profession other than your own, would you like to attempt?   I would love to be an art dealer

What is your favorite piece that you have composed?   Each piece I write is special, but I would have to put the commissioned pieces at the top of the list because you become so involved and connected with those that have commissioned your work.  For me to list one of those, I just can’t.  Non-commissioned, I would say my Pie Jesu  has to be at the top of the list.  It was a gift to the Putnam City Honor Chorus in memory of the children who perished in the Oklahoma City bombing  in 1995.  There is another piece that I wrote as a gift and it is a setting of Sara Teasdale’s Life has Loveliness to Sell — actually the name of the poem is Barter, but I called it Life has Loveliness to Sell, which is the first line of the poem.

Is there anyone, living or dead, that you would like to collaborate with, that you haven’t?   I’ve never really thought about it.  I’m not sure.

If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have the music of one composer, who would it be?   Wow! I’m not a person that can narrow it down like that.  I love so many different things!

(The following questions Mary Lynn suggested to me later, and they are great, so I am stealing them too)

What is on your iPod?   James Taylor, Miles Davis, New York Voices, Tony Bennett, John Mayer, Nanci Wilson, Black-Eyed Peas

What are your favorite TV shows?   HBO’s Treme;  Psyche;  Burn Notice;  In Plain Sight;  Modern Family;  Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations;  Real Time with Bill Maher

What are your favorite foods?   Thai, Asian, seafood, Italian, my brother-in-law’s burgers

Mary Lynn is by far one of the funniest, kindest, most genuine people I have ever had the pleasure to meet.  Do not pass up an opportunity to meet her or see her in action at a festival.  Many thanks to you, Mary Lynn, for the gift of your time in creating this blog.

Click here for a sampling of Mary Lynn’s published works.


A Different Role

July 23, 2010

Recently I met with one of my former professors, a terrific mentor and now colleague.  Addressing him by his first name is a bit surreal after many years of sitting in his classroom.  The purpose of the meeting began rather selfishly:

  1. We both enjoy a good cup of coffee.
  2. I needed to retrieve my graded final paper in hopes of using it as a writing sample should I ever need to submit one.
  3. I am one of those academic types that actually enjoys research and I wanted to bounce around a few ideas.

Conversation led from one thing to another, from suggestions for expansion of that final research topic from a different perspective, to my family, my work at J.W. Pepper and the proverbial “so, now what?”

Does that question ever go away?  His answer of course was one that I and many of you already know — no, it does not.  No matter what the circumstance, our role simply changes.  After more than one cup of great coffee,  I came away with lots of other suggestions and advice as well!

That is the beautiful and lasting thing about teachers that have touched our lives — we never stop wanting their advice.   Perhaps we can all do more to take on the role of giving good counsel to others in the field of music.  I will start here with sharing this interesting article from the New York Times about openings at the nation’s major orchestras:

Need a Job? Help Wanted at the N.Y. Philharmonic


A Better World

May 20, 2010
    The Year Ahead

The Year Ahead

It would be a better world with more places like this one.  The Better World School of Music in Northern California is a well-respected music teaching studio that offers private lessons in voice and a vast array of instruments.  I teach drum lessons there to a varying number of kids and adults every week.  I’m also the studio’s own personal J.W. Pepper rep with rotating hours of service.

Private music teachers have always held a special place in music education along with their colleagues in public schools.  Outside of school, young musicians from successful middle and high school programs are encouraged to find good private teachers to help develop their skills.  Private lessons provide one-on-one attention that can eliminate early problems before they become bad habits.  Savvy music directors know to compile information on local studios for interested band and orchestra parents.

There’s a synergy between these two kinds of music teachers.  Here’s a fictional example of how music teachers from two different institutions build mutual support:

Mr. Murphy is a devoted high school band director who returns to band camp with a surprising infusion of inexperienced music students.  Overjoyed about his growing program, he also ponders how to raise the standard of musicianship in what at first glance looks like a rebuilding year.  With budget cuts, he doesn’t have access to a staff of specialists to coach woodwinds, brass, and percussion.

Mr. Murphy does his homework on local private music studios;  at the same time he fields inquiries from private teachers in the area who are looking for referrals to grow their studios.

Mrs. Franklin is the director of one such studio– her phone is ringing nonstop with all the high school students coming for lessons!  She realizes that she is now understaffed and will need some new teachers to share the workload in the studio.  The end result is a win-win-win for everyone.

Mr. Murphy’s band goes on to have a very successful year with his bigger crop of music students, and private teachers have found new musical opportunities to meet the community’s need for instruction.  And of course, the biggest winners are the students themselves, now enjoying music at a higher level.

I’d like to think that to ensure a vital music community, public and private teachers establish a rapport such as this.  As unapologetically idealistic as this sounds, I think it’s at least worthy of further thought from both groups.

If you have a music studio success story that deserves mention, please feel free to contact me.  As my guitarist would yell before our wedding gigs, “We take requests!”

Better World School of Music:


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!