Browsing Tag

music teacher

Pepper Live

Make Pepper Part of Your Summer with Pepper Live

May 12, 2016


As graduation days approach, we know what’s really on everyone’s minds: summer vacation. And while days at the beach or camping in the woods might be the first thing you picture, Pepper® has a few other ideas you might want to consider. We host, sponsor, or coordinate hundreds of events across the country every year for musicians and music directors of any type of ensemble or style of music. Search our redesigned Events Page and you will almost definitely find an event for you.

Here’s a look at some of our most popular events coming up this summer:


Joy-of-Singing-Logo Joy-of-Worship-Logo

If you are a vocal, classroom, or worship music director, chances are either you have been to a Joy of Singing/Joy of Worship workshop or you know someone who has. These workshops have been running for 30 years, and Pepper is happy to present them once again this July in three different locations. If you have yet to experience the Joy of Singing, you really should consider it! Attendees get first looks at new music from favorite composers in the choral, classroom, and worship music worlds from the composers themselves. Many sessions also include choreography workshops for musicals and more. Check the page for each session to see who is featured.



June 10th and 11th, Pepper is hosting a two-day celebration of music and worship. Created especially for church choir musicians, Voices in Praise is a time of fellowship featuring music resources, continuing education opportunities, and interaction with nationally known clinicians. The event will be conducted by three of the biggest names in worship music: Joseph Martin, Heather Sorenson, and Craig Courtney.


New-Sounds-Logo Sacred-Sounds-Logo

There are several of these events occurring across the country. New Sounds events can feature new music reading sessions for a variety of genres – school choral, elementary classroom music, often church choral, and sometimes concert band or jazz band.  Sacred Sounds events are geared toward church music, primarily for choir and sometimes including organ, piano, and handbell music. Sessions are led by nationally recognized clinicians like Andy Beck, Greg Gilpin, Joseph Martin, Larry Shackley, and more. Check the Events Page to see who is featured in each session.

Of course, those are just a few of our most popular events. There are hundreds every year in locations across the country, so there’s something for everyone. Check out our Events Page to find the right event for you!

Music Advocacy

Celebrating Music in our Schools

March 10, 2016


March is Music in Our Schools Month, and this year we are celebrating with quotes from some of our close friends in the world of conducting, composition, and music education. Over the years, we have talked to many distinguished musicians, and one of the unifying topics of discussion has been the importance of music education. Now, we would like to share with you their thoughts.

Debra Reilly, Grammy Music Educator Award nominee

“Music is the most important subject a school can offer. Music opens up creative minds. It allows children to be individuals. Everyone is progressing at their own rate.”

“My favorite part of teaching is standing up the night of a concert. If I could do a concert once a month I would do it. Just seeing the pleasure in the students’ faces; they beam with pride.”

Meet Debra Reilly: Grammy Music Educator Award Finalist


Jennifer Schoener, band director and executive director, Upper Darby Arts & Education Foundation

“I think it’s critical to anyone’s education… whether it’s through music or whether it’s through art, people need to have that outlet.”

Granting Three Wishes – The Schoener MusicMan Camp


Sharon Burch, educator and author

“A music teacher has an incredible impact. An elementary music teacher has more impact than any other music teacher in the system. When you think about it, if the school district still includes elementary music in their program, that one teacher has an impact on every student in that student body.”


“A thousand music teachers impact a million [kids]. So it can make a difference to our world.”

The Inside Voice: An Interview with Sharon Burch


Dan Forrest, composer, educator and pianist

“There’s a sense of the whole being so much greater than the sum of the parts. There’s a little magic that happens there and once you sense that magic, you just can’t escape that.”

The Inside Voice: An Interview with Dan Forrest


John Rutter, composer

“I think our politicians need to take note… my gosh do they ever! [laughs], and our educators, those who decide education budgets, church budgets, just need to remember it’s not a frill.


“You express when you sing, your soul in song. And when you get together with a group of other singers, it becomes more than the sum of the parts. All of those people are pouring out their hearts and souls in perfect harmony, which is kind of an emblem for what we need in this world, when so much of the world is at odds with itself. That just to express in symbolic terms what it’s like when human beings are in harmony. That’s a lesson for our times and for all time, I profoundly believe that. It’s like a great oak that rises up from the center of the human race and spreads its branches everywhere. That’s what music does for us.”

John Rutter: The Importance of Choir


Mayor Thomas Micozzie, Upper Darby Township

“It’s probably, unfortunately in some of those children’s lives, the only thing they’ve ever committed to and fulfilled, and are being recognized for.”

Granting Three Wishes – The Schoener MusicMan Camp


Paul Mealor, composer and conductor

“People have always had to deal with this issue. It’s always been a difficult thing. But when something is right, when something is the truth, when something is beautiful, it carries on because it has people to fight for it.”


“When we look at music in schools, we must not look at it as an optional extra. We must look at it as one of the most important things that there is.”

The Inside Voice: An Interview with Paul Mealor


Mark Hayes, pianist, composer, conductor and arranger

“My first piano teacher taught me how to improvise. I only had her for a year and a half but she taught me to improvise. I know that was the foundation for my ability to create.”

The Inside Voice: An Interview with Mark Hayes


The positive impact of music on young minds has been well documented, but sometimes it takes the poignant words of those who know best to truly communicate the importance of having music in our schools. We hope you have found these words both insightful and inspiring. Fostering young minds is a job we all share and one huge key to their success is keeping music in our schools.

The Pepper Difference

Introducing My Library

January 29, 2016


Performance planning is rarely the highlight of any music director’s season. Designing your concert may be enjoyable in itself, but the stress that comes with finding the right music, keeping track of what you have and haven’t reviewed, and deciding on the best concert order can begin to weigh on anyone after a while. And, while it is necessary to do all this prep work in order to get to the part everyone loves, the time it takes to get there can be overwhelming.

That’s why J.W. Pepper created My Library, a free online service that helps you plan your performances. My Library is already available to anyone with a Pepper account. Once you log in to your account, you can launch My Library and get started.

Adding pieces to My Library is as simple as shopping around the site. As you browse our site, you will notice a new icon in the same place you can view scores or listen to the music. Clicking this small folder icon will allow you to add the piece to a folder you create in My Library. Add as many pieces as you want, whether you plan to purchase them now or return to them for future consideration.

Once you have your pieces, you can easily organize them into folders by concert season, school year, performance theme or any other method you prefer. In each folder, you can move the pieces around to test different concert orders. Because most pieces give you the opportunity to listen right from our site, you can hear your entire concert exactly as it will sound before you even purchase the pieces. That means time saved and no more leaps of faith when it comes time to buy.

Many of our customers are already using My Library to plan future concerts and loving the results:

I just used the library to put my spring concert program together. It makes life easier! Thank you!“ – Amy Black


“Using it for the first time. I love that I can save all my favorites to one location and then organize by season or concert. Love it!” – Joyce Jingle


It is easy to get started with My Library and, in no time, you can finish the hard work of planning a concert and get to the fun of making music! Log in today and start planning your next concert online for free.



Midwest 2015 Preview

December 15, 2015


It is time again for arguably the biggest conference of the year for musicians and music directors, The Midwest Clinic. Every year, Pepper does its best to provide you with all the information available on what’s being played. We know you’re excited to see this year’s music and we’re excited to share it with you!

Get started by checking out our dedicated Midwest Clinic Online page. Here, you can listen to and peruse the scores, make notes, and bookmark the music featured this year. The page includes music for Concert Band, Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, and Solo and Ensemble selections, sorted into convenient categories.

You will also find a link to our Midwest Clinic Pamphlet listing every piece of music featured at the clinic with links directly to our site to make finding each piece easy. A favorite of Midwest attendees for many years, this catalog includes the Pepper numbers for all the music at this year’s clinic. Be sure you pick up a hard copy of our pamphlet when you visit the Pepper booth.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Directors' Toolbox

Teaching Concert Etiquette

November 9, 2015

One of the most frustrating experiences a music teacher or director can have is a concert audience that is disrespectful.  Whether it is cell phones ringing during the performance, shouts from family members to their children on stage, slamming doors or crying infants, all of us have experienced people behaving badly in a concert setting.

Continue Reading…

Directors' Toolbox

Recruitment and Retention in the School Music Program

August 28, 2015

Recruitment and RetentionMuch has been written about recruitment and retention for music programs.  With the uptick in access to social media, there are even more opportunities to share and acquire new ideas every day.  Sure, everyone appreciates a new tool or tactic for getting more students involved in singing, be it building music pride through uniforms, special themed concerts, or even music department trips to various theme park destinations.  But ultimately, I found that the key to getting kids involved in your program, whether instrumental or vocal, and keeping them there is a coordinated effort to establish a strong feeder program within the district.  Although the following examples come from my experience as a choral director, these principles can easily be applied to instrumental programs.

recruitmentquote-blacktextcroppedIt starts in the elementary schools

If you’re teaching at the high school level, your first priority for recruitment to your program needs to be a strong feeder program.  The elementary and middle schools that funnel students to your high school need to know who you are, and that you are interested in them – both the students and the teachers.  It can begin with setting up visits to the elementary and middle schools – by you, or better yet, by you and your choral students!  Nothing works better to stir a young student’s interest in music than a mini concert or demo by older students.  I can still remember the impact that the high school barbershop group made on me when they visited the middle school I was attending and gave a short performance.  Wow!  I was amazed, and I couldn’t wait to get to that high school program to join that group!


As a high school choral director, I would schedule times to visit the feeder schools – typically around concert times when music was already prepared, and especially in the spring, right before the time middle school students were scheduling their high school courses.  Make sure you participate in any choir festivals your district organizes – they are great opportunities to share your program with everyone.  And when you are in recruitment mode, choose music appropriate for the age of your target students.  Elementary school students are less likely to appreciate your choir’s performance of an Eric Whitacre piece; more often, a light concert or well-performed pop piece will appeal to younger audiences.  When possible, I would travel with my auditioned group because within that choir were members of smaller ensembles that could perform at these functions as well, like madrigal singers and a cappella quartets.  The bottom line is:  teachers and students will appreciate the time you take to visit and share your program, especially if you are friendly, maybe a little funny, and always warm and welcoming.


Articulation of standards across grade levels

After you have developed a good rapport with the music educators in your feeder schools, engage them in conversations about student preparation across the grade levels.  I found it helpful to express to the middle schools what skill set the students should have by the time they reach high school.  Districts in many states already have this mapped out and documented via standards-based curricula, often using the National Core Arts Standards as the basis for formulating state and district standards.  Still, if you are an advocate of sight singing like I am, you will want to make sure that the middle schools are teaching their students in a similar fashion.  And the middle schools in turn should reach out to the elementary schools to make sure that they are preparing students properly to enter their programs.  If you are fortunate enough to have an Arts Coordinator or Music Supervisor in your district, he or she will more than likely coordinate these types of conversations.  Absent this position, it’s up to you and your colleagues.  The payoff, though, is overwhelmingly positive.  Cooperation among music educators (or educators of any subject, for that matter) ultimately benefits the students in the system.  A coordinated educational effort from K-12 helps to create a strong program, worthy of continued funding and increased support from all stakeholders:  parents, community members, teachers, and administrators.  A strong program, in turn, will generate more student participation and higher levels of student retention.



All of this can be for naught if you don’t tell anyone what’s going on.  Effective communication between the school, parents, and the community at large will keep everyone informed of what you’re doing and increase awareness about the positive outcomes of a strong music program.  Newsletters, emails, updated music department webpages, and social media all contribute to getting the message of your efforts out to the public.  Anywhere you can post photos of your students having fun while participating in the school music program will go a long way toward endorsing music’s important role in the life of a child.  John Rutter stated this beautifully in a recent interview with J.W. Pepper when he said,

“Choral music is not one of life’s frills.  It’s something that goes to the very heart of our humanity, our sense of community, and our souls.  You express, when you sing, your soul in song.  And when you get together with a group of other singers, it becomes more than the sum of the parts.  All of those people are pouring out their hearts and souls in perfect harmony, which is kind of an emblem for what we need in this world, when so much of the world is at odds with itself… that just to express, in symbolic terms, what it’s like when human beings are in harmony.  That’s a lesson for our times and for all time.  I profoundly believe that.  And musical excellence is, of course, at the heart of it.”

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.


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


“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.”


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?