Browsing Tag

Casual Musician


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,, 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,

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.



The Sounds of Summer: Music at the Movies – Part II

July 5, 2012

A continuation of the discussion of the value of cinematic soundtracks to the world of both serious music and to music education…

Each year, as Hollywood offers the movie-going community an array of new film scores to appreciate, publishers of educational music wisely pursue the most iconic of these scores to arrange for young musicians. Artists like Ted Ricketts, Douglas Wagner, Jerry Brubaker, Mike Story, and Victor Lopez all understand the value of arranging movie soundtracks, “the new classical music,” for student ensembles. But why should a school instrumental director consider a film score arrangement as part of his or her concert or marching program?

Victor Lopez, who works as an arranger for Alfred Music Publishing, has this to say about the value of cinematic soundtracks to the educational market:

“Today, students have many opportunities to listen to all kinds of music via radio, television, YouTube, iTunes and other mediums.  However, not all of the music provided to the public is truly educational or quality literature.  On the other hand, most of the music in cinematic soundtracks seems to require a high level of creativity and sound musical knowledge.  Movie music is an art form that is created for a purpose… although putting together a collection of pop songs may constitute a cinematic soundtrack, in my opinion, that’s not really movie music.

“Most film music is an art, and because of its artistic value, the material is perfectly geared for music education programs and becomes extremely beneficial in music curricula.”

Arrangers from publishing companies across the educational spectrum universally point to John Williams as one of the most significant composers in film history, and agree his material provides excellent content for student musicians.  The melodic quality of Williams’ work is the “something” that sets his music apart, makes it so memorable, and takes it beyond incidental background material.  By providing band and orchestra arrangements of his scores (as well as the rousing themes of other composers in the genre), arrangers make this fun and relevant material available to student organizations.

An educator who chooses a well-arranged cinema theme for band or orchestra bridges the gap between this sense of relevance and content that will challenge them artistically, a bridge that exists nowhere else.  That pursuit of what instrumentalists find exciting now may not only be an invaluable investment in students’ education, but the future appreciation of serious music as well.


The Sounds of Summer: Music at the Movies-Part I

June 20, 2012

Summer has hardly begun, but the summer movie season is already in full swing.  Every year, a parade of blockbuster films compete with each other for the millions of dollars moviegoers will spend in search of a journey into the magic of the movies.  For the music enthusiast, however, this season of film after film brings another art form into the spotlight:  the soundtrack.

Some people can watch an entire film and never truly hear a note of the soundtrack, but there’s no doubt every viewer would miss the intricate underscore if the filmmakers left it out.  From the winsome, pastoral flute of the Shire theme in Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings scores to the driving electronica that intermixes with the works of Hans Zimmer, film soundtracks set the mood and the pace of the story in a visceral way the viewer may not be able to verbalize, but feels nonetheless.

This summer promises to offer yet another constellation of musical themes. Most of the names soundtrack enthusiasts know will be present at the box office this year, including Danny Elfman on Men in Black III, Alan Silvestri on the already wildly successful The Avengers, James Horner with The Amazing Spiderman, Hans Zimmer in The Dark Night Rises. Patrick Doyle, noted for his past work on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as well as Thor will offer his talents to the score of Disney/Pixar’s Brave.

Aside from entertainment value, cinematic soundtracks bear a greater burden of artistic value than they may seem to carry on the surface. Michael Story, editor and arranger for Alfred Music Publishing, underscores cinematic music’s relevance and value:  “For many people, movie music is the ‘new’ classical music. Many symphony orchestras now present concerts that include movie music as part of their repertoire — partially because it is a way to get new people to the concerts, but also, and just as important, because so much of it is so good. Howard Shore’s successful ‘Lord of the Rings Symphony’ tour a few years back is a great example of this.”

In a time when a baseball team can sell out four seasons of games in a row while in the same city a world-class orchestra files for bankruptcy, clearly the task of generating current and future audiences for orchestral music is an urgent concern.

A love for serious repertoire is something the music educators of today have the unique privilege of cultivating in young people while their attitudes are open to the exposure. Coming soon, in a second part to this discussion, learn how school music directors can utilize movie soundtracks to plant seeds of appreciation of classical music in their students and community.


The Ahn Trio: A Powerful Force in the Music World

February 8, 2011

A few months ago I came across a program on PBS called On Canvas: The Ahn Trio which presented a live performance from Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.  Three young ladies, Angella, Lucia, and Maria, are sisters who were born in Seoul, Korea and eventually moved to the United States.  They had the good fortune of being classically trained at The Julliard School of Music in New York City.  Angella is the violinist, Maria is the cellist, and Lucia plays piano within the trio.

Growing up, they learned to play and appreciate the classical compositions of Mozart, Beethoven, Dvorak, and Smetana.  But the Ahn Trio have also been performing commissioned pieces by modern-day composers such as Pat Metheny, Michael Nyman, Kenji Bunch, and Paul Schoenfield, just to name a few.  These young ladies are not afraid to think outside the box regarding the music that they play, exploring various forms of artistic expression by combining performances filled with other types of performing and visual artists.  The Ahn sisters have collaborated with painters, dancers, pop singers, DJs, photographers, and other artistic groups, adding even more energy and excitement to their shows while still displaying their classical prowess.

They are also making their presence known on the record charts, too.  They’ve recorded CDs such as Paris Rio; Dvorak, Suk, Shostakovich:  Piano Trios;  Ahn-Plugged;  Groovebox and Lullaby for My Favorite Insomniac. They’ve even recorded a European version of Lullaby for My Favorite Insomniac made exclusively for iTunes.  This was number eight on the Billboard Classical chart for 26 weeks.  The trio has been touring for the last ten years and are already scheduled to perform in 2011 at high schools, universities, and concert halls within the United States and around the globe.

The Ahn sisters don’t just play concerts, they’ve also been performing and teaching at musical workshops and master classes nationally and internationally.  Their success just doesn’t seem to stop. Their talent, flair and style are recognized by magazines like Time, GQ, People and Vogue.  Photographers such as Walter Chin and Ellen von Unwerth  have captured their young faces  and popular retailers like Anne Klein, Gap and The Bodyshop have featured the Ahn Trio in ad campaigns.  These young ladies will definitely make your ears perk up and take notice of their musical talents when you listen to them play.  Then you’ll truly understand why the Ahn Trio is a powerful force in the music world.

Music Advocacy

Witness the Spark

July 27, 2010

On a break from a practice session I walked through downtown Hayward when my ears perked at the sound of an amplifier. The familiar “Test-1-2” reached me as I rounded a corner and discovered a local blues band warming up on the patio of a restaurant.

A few minutes into the start of their first set, a small boy about the age of 8 or 9 walked up fearlessly to the lead singer.  The hulking bandleader motioned for the boy to enter the band’s live performance area to “groove along” while the band vamped the 12-bar blues.  After a few minutes the mic was handed over to the new ringer and the kid proceeded to belt out a few repetitions of the title line ‘I’ve Got My Mojo Workin’.  The crowd went wild!

After all the older members had each taken 24 bars of solo, I spied in the kid’s small hands a harmonica, a gift given to him by the guitar player.   He blew huge gulps of air into the mouth harp and continued to dance while the band played.  In his eyes he was now part of the band.  I couldn’t help but think that this moment was this kid’s musical “spark.”

My personal “spark” experience was seeing STOMP for the first time.  I can remember being in the audience feeling tingles on my spine and picturing myself as a member of the already-famous percussion group.

Can you remember having a music moment similar to our young bluesman?

We all know that instance when music touches us in ways not easily described in words.  The feeling of that musical spark is part of why we are musicians and why we teach children this mysterious form of art.