Browsing Tag

sheet music

The Pepper Difference

A History of Service: Editors’ Choice

June 2, 2016


Part of J.W. Pepper’s dedication to serving musicians entails providing the largest selection of sheet music in the world. While the company has long prided itself on giving musicians as many options as possible, having such an extensive catalog of products can be overwhelming. This fact was the inspiration behind the service now known as Editors’ Choice.2 Today, Editors’ Choice provides directors with a faster way to find and review the best new sheet music in one place, but the service has seen many changes over the years.


Choral Experience

In 1983, J.W. Pepper embarked on a bold new project that would provide the best new choral releases to directors in a single package. In just a short time, the iconic Choral Experience boxed sets began to appear on shelves across the country. Thanks to this new service, choir directors could review new music in their own home or office and take all the time they needed to choose the right music for their ensemble.


1Band, Orchestra and More

The success and wide appeal of Choral Experience led Pepper to expand this service into music for other ensembles. To bring the same service to band and orchestra directors, Pepper created the Recorded Library. Directors could order a collection of CDs with the best new music as selected by Pepper’s editors, making it possible for them to review more songs at a time. Eventually, music for more types of ensembles would be included, with the current Editors’ Choice including catalogs for concert band, marching band, school choir, church choir, orchestra, and handbells, all curated by the best editors in the business.


Who Are the Editors of Editors’ Choice?book

You may be wondering who it is that determines what is the “best new music” each year. Our editorial staff is uniquely qualified to evaluate and endorse music because of their extensive experience in the industry. Many of our editors were teachers themselves for decades. Others have worked for publishers, sifting through submissions to find gems that would go on to become some of the most beloved pieces ever released. All together, our editors have over two hundred years of experience in the music business! We know music – and we live it every day.


cdHearing the Best New Music

Over the course of the evolution of Editors’ Choice, how directors experience the music selected has changed dramatically. In an effort to present the most complete impression possible of each song, Pepper began producing audio collections of the Editors’ Choice catalogs. Through the years, these collections have appeared on most every medium imaginable, from records and cassettes to CDs. Some music even came on reel-to-reel tapes! Pepper went to great lengths to keep up with changing technology so that directors could experience our selection in whatever medium worked best for them. That mission has not changed with the emergence of the digital age.


ec-screenEditors’ Choice Moves Online

As with most things in our modern age, the 21st century saw Editors’ Choice  migrate to an online service. Today, subscribers can find entire Editors’ Choice catalogs online with just a click of the mouse. Listings include an audio file to listen to each piece and the ability to review each score. And Editors’ Choice Online allows directors to add notes and bookmarks to the music, just like on a hard copy. It can be accessed from any device and it’s free!

Over time, the mediums and methods may have changed, but the core mission of service that inspired Editors’ Choice is still central to what we do. That is something that will never change!

See more of Pepper’s history on our interactive timeline!

The Pepper Difference

A History of Service: The Pepper Website

April 27, 2016


The advent of the Internet changed retail forever, though that fact was not immediately apparent in the early days. In the mid 1990s, when the Internet was in its infancy, very few retailers saw the potential of this new medium. J.W. Pepper, however, has a history of exploring new business technologies and decided to explore the emerging medium.


Click to Expand

Click to Expand

The first iteration of appeared in 1995. Though fairly basic by today’s standards, the site was revolutionary for the music industry at that time. Users could log in using their accounts and access a slew of online services. One of the major services, Pepper National Music Network (PNMN), had actually existed since 1990. PNMN (later PMN) allowed musicians, music directors, music librarians and
more to connect with one another from across the United States. At a time when internet forums were in their infancy, Pepper was using them to foster peer-to-peer cooperation between people who otherwise might never have met.


Click to Expand

Click to Expand

An online catalog was also included on the original website, allowing customers to browse our inventory. Even in those early days, customers could view and listen to many of the pieces Pepper had to offer. It was not long before online ordering made up a significant portion of our company’s sales. At the same time corporations like Amazon were changing the way we think about retail, Pepper was already making great strides toward bringing the American marketplace into the internet age. As of 2015, about 60% of all orders taken by J.W. Pepper come through the website.


Click to Expand

Click to Expand

Through the years, Pepper’s website has become the main source for innovation in the company. In 2001, Pepper introduced ePrint, which allows customers to find the music they want and print it in their own home, classroom, or office. The Pepper website has also greatly impacted existing aspects of the business. Editors’ Choice, which replaced the earlier Choral Experience, evolved from printed booklets and CDs to a largely online feature. Of course, Editors’ Choice has a story all its own.

See more of Pepper’s history on our interactive timeline!



The Pepper Difference

A History of Service: The Pepper Catalog

March 24, 2016

Storefront-Blog (5)

For the generations of Pepper customers past, one of the defining features of our company has always been the Pepper Catalog. From very early on, the Catalog was a way to reach our customers when they could not make it into the store. It was a different world then, and the idea of a national music retailer was still in its infancy. James Welsh Pepper, however, knew the value of serving the customer and did his best to reach anyone in need of instruments, accessories, and sheet music and provide the same service they would receive in-store. Take, for example, this excerpt from the 1897 edition of the Pepper Catalog:

“We are anxious to have your order for these instruments, but don’t ask you to run any risk. As we cannot expect customers out of the city to visit our warerooms, therefore, we offer to bring the store to you, or what is practically the same thing, will send any instrument by express, C.O.D., subject to examination and six days’ trial. If it is not fully up to the claim we make, and does not give entire satisfaction, return it and we will pay express charges both ways. You are not asked to purchase unless thoroughly satisfied.”

Far from just a list of products and prices, the Pepper Catalog was born out of a desire to extend the service experience our local customers received to musicians across the country. Customers responded to that mission, and the Pepper Catalog has become a staple of most music classrooms in America. In 2016 alone, Pepper sent out nearly 850,000 individual catalogs comprising 30 different specialized genres.

Over the years, while the Pepper Catalog has remained the chief reference for our customers, the way we take orders has undergone a dramatic shift. In the mid 20th century, the telephone took its place alongside mail order as a prominent method for obtaining goods. Slowly but surely, telephone ordering began to overtake the mail and, in response, Pepper established a nationwide toll-free line in 1981. The reason for this was best stated in the ’81-’82 catalog:

“For over a hundred years, J.W. Pepper has spared no expense in providing our customers with the best service possible, and this new nationwide line is just one more example of that continuing commitment to your success. With it, you can connect instantaneously with the world’s most complete inventory of educational sheet music. Order processing and tracking will be faster and more efficient than ever. Questions can be answered in a moment’s notice. All accounting and billing information will be no more than a phone call away. And the complete services of J.W. Pepper’s music experts are now conveniently close at hand and available to you at absolutely no cost whatsoever.”

-Bill Rohloff, Branch Manager

The Pepper Call Center remains to this day a major channel for customer orders. However, as time progresses, new technologies have appeared to change the way we work and think. The advent of the Internet caused a new revolution that continues to expand. Internet ordering has been growing quickly since the late 1990s and now has outpaced telephone orders. Meanwhile, our Customer Service Representatives are hard at work on both, continuing Pepper’s dedication to service.

Today, the Pepper Catalog continues to inform and assist our customers in their search for the best music, no matter their ensemble or musical tastes. Where we go from here no one can say for certain, but for 140 years the Pepper Catalog and our dedication to service have endured. Come what may, we can say with conviction that that dedication will never fade away.

See more of Pepper’s history on our interactive timeline!




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?

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.


The Hottest Pop Sheet Music of 2012

December 31, 2012

The world of popular music comprises some pretty volatile terrain.  What seems fresh and exciting one moment is old news the next.  We hear stories from music directors and private teachers about how students are begging to perform the latest hit from Katy Perry one moment, and then something from One Direction the next.  Dare we ask how many requests you’ve gotten for Gangnam Style by now?  However, here’s some news that might surprise you – sheet music for the likes of Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby and Vince Guaraldi is just as in demand as that of Lady Gaga and The Band Perry.  Don’t believe us?  Take a look at some of the top-selling sheets of 2012.

Adele, Billboard’s Artist of the Year for the second year in a row, resides high in the top rankings with the following:

However, we think you’ll agree, the rest of 2012’s top hits are quite diverse:

  • The Prayer – Celine Dion/Andrea Bocelli – 5725015
  • A Thousand Years – Christina Perri –10304903
  • Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth – Bing Crosby/David Bowie – 10190790
  • Blessings – Laura Story – 10290394
  • What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong – 4921375
  • Bless the Broken Road – Rascal Flatts – 5990069
  • We Are Young – Fun. – 10309306
  • If I Die Young – The Band Perry – 10186774
  • Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen – 10054618
  • Linus and Lucy – Vince Guaraldi – 5968910
  • The Edge of Glory – Lady Gaga – 10288478
  • I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe – 5980737
  • The Devil Went Down to Georgia – Charlie Daniels Band – 10001291
  • What Makes You Beautiful – One Direction – 10317015
  • Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen – 6077515
  • God Gave Me You – Blake Shelton – 10294564
  • Over the Rainbow – Harold Arlen – 4919759 and American Idol Katharine McPhee’s version – 10023749
  • Paradise – Coldplay – 10299117

Oh, and speaking of Gangnam Style – never fear, we’ve got you covered! – 10343323E, 10347638E, 10343492 (Marching band), 10343719 (Concert band)


Meet Pepper: Southern California

November 27, 2012

When tourists visit southern California, their itinerary will more than likely include must-see sights and trips to Disneyland, Hollywood and one of the many beaches that typify Los Angeles.  However, there is growing speculation that making a trip to Pepper Southern California may be trending positively within that list, probably somewhere in between Rodeo Drive and any MTV celebrity home.

Kidding aside, J.W. Pepper has had a presence in southern California since the early 1980s, with previous locations in the cities of Gardena and Santa Fe Springs.  Currently, our store is located in the beautiful city of Norwalk, about 15 miles away from Disneyland and 25 minutes from the beach.  The store also functions as a Regional Marketing Center, where we proudly serve southern California, Arizona and Hawaii.

Our team realizes that when it comes to our customers and their expectations, the little things mean everything.  We make every effort possible to ensure that our customers leave our store knowing that they can always depend on Pepper for all of their sheet music needs.  Our staff of four provides a wide spectrum of services for our customers, including organizing and implementing annual choral workshops and copyright presentations.  Other times, we play host on district in-service days to assist neighboring school districts in choosing their curricula for the year.  For the most part, the store acts as a musical treasure vault, where amateur and professional musicians browse for hours looking for updates to their musical repertoire.

The newest addition to the team is Gloria Zurita, who joined Pepper in 2010.  Gloria is a former clarinet player with an appetite for writing and photography.  Her favorite musical activity at the moment is “listening to and dissecting Eric Whitacre chords” in her car while she sits in L.A. traffic. 

Kristina Real joined Pepper in late 2005.  She played the accordion early in her childhood, as well as percussion in the school band. She is a bona fide music aficionado of nearly every genre.  If a customer is unsure about a song title, once they start to sing a measure or two, Kristina will almost always successfully “name that tune.” 

Valdemar Zamora has been with Pepper for over 20 years.  A proud family man and keyboard player, he once toured professionally with a Mexican pop group.  Presently, he shares his talents with his local church worship group as their keyboardist.

The manager of J.W. Pepper SoCal is Pepper Vice President Sam DeRenzis.  Sam earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Gettysburg College.  His involvement with the industry spans over three decades, and he has been with Pepper for over 20 years.  He is an accomplished saxophone player and a passionate fan of Major League Baseball.

Feel free to stop by whenever you’re in the area.  We would love to see you!

Visit Pepper SoCal’s website.

Hang out with us on Facebook.


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.


Halloween Music For Your Phobias

October 30, 2012

Halloween is the time of year where many of our fears and phobias come to life.  Haunted houses, hay rides and corn mazes can be found in nearly every city.  Horror movies dominate network TV.  And let’s not forget to be very wary of the life-size butler holding a serving tray when you walk past him in the grocery store, as you know that at any moment you will be met with glowing red eyes and a good verbal accosting.  Of course, music plays a key role in enhancing the season, playing upon those fears and phobias that thrill and chill us.  So, we’ve decided to make a list of HALLOWEEN MUSIC that people with certain kinds of phobias may want to avoid… or not.  Explore at your own risk!  Muhahahahahaaaa!

Hemophobia – fear of blood.  We recommend avoiding Feed Me (Git It) from Alan Menken’s Little Shop of Horrors.  This is especially true if you also suffer from Botanophobia (fear of plants).

Arachnophobia – fear of spiders.  Robert Smith’s hushed vocals in The Cure’s Lullaby may make the hair on the back of your neck stand up when he tells you that “The spider man is having you for dinner tonight.”  Eep!

Lilapsophobia – fear of tornadoes and hurricanes.  With its apocalyptic theme, CCR’s Bad Moon Rising does a fine job of bringing the terrors of natural disaster to life.

Lyssophobia – fear of going mad.  They’re Coming to Take Me Away from ’70s group Napoleon XIV may not be all that frightening in the traditional sense, however you would be hard-pressed to find a song that embodies a maniacal state as well as this one does. “Ha ha , ho ho, he he…”

Osmophobia – fear of smells or odors.  In addition to the “funk of forty thousand years” assailing your senses, we’re pretty sure that between the song itself and the amazing video for Michael Jackson’s Thriller, you’re bound to encounter pretty much every phobia in existence.  I mean, there’s a very good chance that Vincent Priceophobia became a real condition immediately following its release!

Wiccaphobia – fear of witches and witchcraft.  Paul Dukas’ epic orchestral work The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was inspired by a poem of the same name by Johann Wolfgan v0n Goethe, published in 1797.  The poem was brought to life in Disney’s 1940 film Fantasia, but the concert piece itself had already been highly popular with classical audiences for quite some time.

Elurophobia – fear of cats.  When it comes to cats, no song does a better job of describing the baddest of the bad, the “monster of depravity,” like Macavity:  The Mystery Cat from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famous musical… you guessed it… Cats!

Euphobia – fear of hearing good news.  If you suffer from this condition, then you may not be rejoicing with your “fellow Ozians” when they proclaim “Good news… the witch of the West is dead!” in the opening scene of Stephen Schwartz’ hit musical, Wicked.  But don’t worry, once you move past No One Mourns the Wicked, you will come to discover the bad news – she’s not actually dead.  Except that this bad news actually turns out to be good news because, in reality, the witch really isn’t bad.  Are you confused yet?

Nyctophobia – fear of the dark.  We don’t think there’s a better song to describe your phobia than Iron Maiden’s Fear of the Dark.  Perhaps, rather than avoiding, you should actually give it a listen.  It may very well be theraputic to know that you’re keeping (phobic) company with these pioneers of British metal.

Melophobia – fear or hatred of music.  Um… we really hate to be the bearers of bad news, but you’re reading the wrong blog.  Please, don’t panic.  Take a deep breath, calmly move your cursor toward the “X” at the top of your browser, and click.  If you experience any technical difficulties while performing this action, or find yourself traumatized from reading this blog, please don’t hesitate to contact our tech team at  We can help!

Uranophobia – fear of heaven.  While some may find solace in the idea of angels looking out for you every hour of every day, those who are afflicted with this particular phobia may not enjoy reciting the children’s song Angels Watching Over Me.  It just goes to show that music really is open to interpretation.

Samhainophobia – fear of Halloween.  Danny Elfman goes into great detail describing an entire town named after the holiday in This is Halloween from The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Resident ghosts, ghouls, witches, vampires, corpses and clowns all make cameos in this song.  The good news?  We’re fairly certain that real estate is cheap.

Iatrophobia – fear of doctors.  The Witch Doctor by David Seville may seem like a fun, lighthearted, kooky little ditty.  But you just ask anyone who suffers from Iatro-wicca-phobia how THEY feel about it!

Cleisiophobia – fear of being locked in an enclosed place.  If Eminem’s lyrics for ’97 Bonnie and Clyde aren’t disturbing enough, check out Tori Amos’ cover and see how you feel about the song then.  Amos spins the perspective to that of the dead woman who is now riding in the locked trunk of her murderer/ex-husband’s car, listening to the conversation he is having with their young daughter.  Positively chilling.

If you’re interested in exploring even more phobias, then check out  If you now have an urge to add some creepy sheet music to your library, then look no further:  Happy Halloween to all you non-Samhainophobes!