Welcome to our new blog series! We would like to introduce you to all fourteen of our regional stores, representing all areas of the country, Canada, and indeed the world. First up is the Pepper store located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Don’t Stop Believin’, Jump, Somebody to Love, Sweet Caroline, Can’t Fight This Feeling — these songs have two things in common:
- They have all been performed on the hit television show Glee
- They are all featured in J.W. Pepper’s 2010-2011 Editors’ Choice choral series.
I took some time today to listen to some of the incredible arrangements that have emerged in the newest recordings and found myself pondering the significance of shows such as High School Musical and Glee from a music education standpoint.
I read that a poll by the National Association for Music Education this past February showed that 43 percent of choral directors surveyed saw an increase in interest amongst students to join their ensembles due to the popularity of Glee. I have also read several stories about students who never would have thought to audition for show choir before becoming suddenly eager to join, citing Glee as their inspiration for doing so. This made me wonder how many Pepper customers have experienced the “Glee” phenomenon and whether or not you feel it has helped not only to increase student interest, but also to garner support from school administrators and parents. Have there been any shifts in attitude toward your choral programs? Have you noticed any changes in confidence and self-esteem amongst your choir members? Have you had to explain to your students that they won’t be able to pull off a stellar rendition from the moment you pass the sheet music out to them? I would love to hear your stories and opinions on this subject. Please feel free to submit them via the Comments form below.
Click here to see a partial list of titles available from Glee.
Last night after finishing my lessons I stayed at the studio and practiced drum set for 30 minutes. It wasn’t recital preparation, but I ran some coordination exercises and improvised with some familiar grooves before concluding my session with some new grooves from a book I recently purchased from this awesome sheet music store in Dublin, CA. (And of course, it was my Pepper store.)
My self-imposed “time-out for practice” reinvigorated me with motivation to do more — it was an affirmation to myself: “I have a right to practice!”
Throughout music school my “right” to practice meant something quite different than it does now — it was a necessary requirement. Every day for 4-6 hours I would bury myself in a practice room to methodically shape the phrases and nuances that would define my performance as good or great. Recitals meant everything!
After college the majority of us do not have solo performances to prepare for and practicing that much is not realistic. It’s also fair to say that, as career musicians, we shouldn’t have to practice 4-6 hours to achieve the practical demands of casual performance gigs. Simply put, it’s not the amount of time but rather the efficiency of time used that matters more.
It’s not our fault that we don’t practice as much as when we were students. Life is busy, but we still have to make the effort to stop and smell the musical roses. It’s time away from obligations that keeps us musically stimulated and ensures our longevity as musicians.
Click here for a fantastic list of tips to help you make more of your practice time.
Click here to read how singer/songwriter Ken Medema uses vocal exerices to keep his voice sounding youthful.
When we think of classical music we conjure sounds of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Ravel, Wagner, and Copland, among others. But it’s no secret that with that love of the classics often comes a noticeable hesitation to embrace contemporary classical music, a genre encompassing works composed from the mid-1970s to the present day.
Finding an audience for modern music that is perceived as awkward and unpleasant is not easy. Fortunately there are major orchestras that, through artist residency programs, openly support works from new composers. But should we as listeners take a chance on contemporary classical music? As rhetorical as this question might sound, I believe that I have nothing to lose and attempting to answer it will only help the longevity of classical music as a whole. In other words, why not?
Spaces Between (2006) – Jen Wang
Sonata for Cello and Piano in D major, op. 102 no. 2 – Ludwig van Beethoven
S.T.I.C. (1995) – Dan Becker (b. 1960)
This was a new kind of symphonic experience, an auditory buffet that introduced me to contemporary music paired with pieces that were not so contemporary, without program notes or a pre-concert lecture. Instead, prior to each piece the members of the ensemble would demonstrate each piece’s contrasting styles through the recitation of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” It was fascinating to realize the vast differences between Beethoven’s counterpoint and Carter’s complexity, explained through a well-known folk tune.
This process gave the audience a chance to learn about each piece and the composer’s creative approach that created it. It enabled us to personalize the music as it was played, therefore making it more difficult to dismiss it as inaccessible. Kathyrn Bates Williams, founding member and cellist, states in her blog, “Listening to all music is important. It distinguishes the artistic values that we appreciate and those we don’t. It brings us surprises both good and bad.” I can’t help but agree with her. It’s a risk, a small risk that we take in seeing contemporary concerts, equivalent to trying a new restaurant.
After the concert we filed into the lobby where the composers Jen Wang and Dan Becker mingled with the audience. Suddenly it dawned on me how important it was for these two artists that there even was an audience, that it possibly didn’t matter whether or not I actually liked their music.
This is an extremely liberating concept for me as a listener and performer. The New Spectrum Ensemble strives to promote contemporary composers, and to accomplish that it took me on a strange journey made available through their unique, tongue-in-cheek programming. My journey might result in me not liking everything that I hear and that’s ok. In the end all that matters is that I showed up and listened.
Meet the members of the New Spectrum Ensemble here: www.thenewspectrum.com. Additionally, if you are interested in learning more about contemporary classical music or just looking for an informative website from one of today’s most entertaining musical thinkers, please check out Alex Ross, music writer for The New Yorker. His website and blog are located at www.therestisnoise.com
Did you ever get the feeling someone is talking about you? Well, this time of year you are being talked about plenty here at Pepper.
Are you looking for interesting ways to keep your students interested in practicing over the summer? With the school year drawing to a close and the heat of summer already upon some of us, we’ve all noticed our students becoming a little restless.
I suspect that high school and college horn students frequently live a life of musical schizophrenia. Religiously studying and performing classical orchestral literature — while listening to or wishing to play in a jazz ensemble. When one pictures jazz ensemble instrumentation, saxophones, trombones, drum set, trumpets, and double bass easily come to mind. An instrument rarely included in this list is the horn — an unfortunate oversight. Too often high school horn players are excluded from their jazz ensembles, or worse, persuaded to participate on trumpet! Utilizing the horn in the jazz medium is rare but was practiced as early as the 1940s with the inclusion of the instrument in scores for Claude Thornhill and later trumpeter Miles Davis. Willie Ruff, Julius Watkins, John Graas, Tom Varner, Adam Unsworth are just a few on the growing list of noteworthy American horn players devoted to the genre.
Horn player, teacher and composer Lowell Shaw composed Fripperies (horn quartet) in order to teach his students at the University of Buffalo how to play in commercial styles including jazz, barbershop, and funk. He has since increased the number of Fripperies to 40 and has also added Quipperies (horn quintet), Tripperies (horn trio), and Just Desserts (solo horn with optional string bass).
For beginning players, the Essential Elements – Jazz series is a useful introduction to jazz notation. In addition to horn, instrumentation also includes the less conventional flute and tuba. We’ll keep you posted as more jazz horn music becomes available in easy, intermediate, and advanced levels. Maybe this is the summer your horn students spend some time playing jazz!
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!
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) offers some wonderful audio portaits from leading songwriters, giving you a chance to hear the artist in their own words. We particularly enjoyed hearing insights from Mark Lee, guitarist for Third Day, who shares how the Christian rock band carries our their faith through their music. We hope you enjoy this intimate glimpse into the purpose behind the music. Thank you ASCAP for making this all possible.
Listen: Third Day interview
Sheet music from Third Day you can download or have shipped: http://tr.im/thirdday
Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band is a dynamic force in the jazz idiom. Here, courtesy of the ASCAP archives, you can hear the Grammy-winning artist himself, talking about the process of building a unique voice for the band that connects with today’s audiences. Discover the influences and key collaborations that are part of the development of this energetic contemporary jazz voice.
Listen to Gordon, in his own words: Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band
Sheet music available: http://tr.im/gordongoodwin