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Meet Pepper: North Carolina

December 13, 2011

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.

Continue Reading…

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Key People: Interview with Wynn-Anne Rossi

August 30, 2011
Wynn-Ann Rossi

Wynn-Ann Rossi

Crystal Desch and I had the honor of interviewing Wynn-Anne Rossi, and we think you’ll find her as we did, an inspirational composer, pianist and teacher.  Among her many musical roles, Wynn-Anne is a highly creative composer of student-level piano music and instructional books on composing.  We hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as we did.  

How many piano students to you have?

I have about 25 private students, ranging from beginner to advanced.  We focus on all the various piano skills, but my favorite part is teaching them original composition.

Tell us more about the structure of your piano/composition lessons.

I teach weekly private lessons, followed by keyboard lab for creative projects (under earphones).  Once per month, I hold group lessons with different areas of focus.  Every third recital is an original composition recital.  These performances are totally exhilarating, with themes that the students choose.

What do you enjoy most about teaching piano?

I love the deep relationships that build over time with my students.  I’m sure I am not alone in this answer.  Sharing music builds amazing, lasting friendships.

You have a real talent for inspiring young people to compose.  Where does your inspiration come from to work with young people in this way?

I suppose the inspiration comes from the students themselves.  They are so curious and eager to express themselves.  Students’ lives are so full of feeling, and they have so much to say through music.  It’s invigorating and inspiring to work with them.

Do the students you work with ever influence your more advanced compositions?

Absolutely.  Each year, I do composition residencies in the schools where I create orchestra and band works using student musical ideas.  Some of my most complex pieces are linked to students.  I can think of other examples as well.  Students are closely linked to my music.

What were you able to do with your new Creative Composition Toolbox  series that hasn’t been done before?

I’m pleased with how streamlined this composition method is.  “See, then do.”  It’s that simple.  In addition, I designed it to parallel major piano methods.  Certain concepts come up at appropriate times, ready to be expressed in original compositions.  I’m also thrilled that the first book is free of traditional notation.

You have a bunch of fabulous Halloween titles.  Is Halloween your favorite holiday?

You found a soft spot.  I love crazy costumes, I love saying “boo” and I love candy.  Yes, it just may win as my favorite holiday!

As a composer, do you have a “muse?”

I have lots of muses.  Dark chocolate, petting my cat, modern art, funny jokes, coffee with a friend … small breaks from life allow flashes of inspiration to leap in.  It’s everywhere.

Who have your greatest musical influences been?

The reason I’m a composer today is because of my mom.  When I was very young, we would create animal stories and conversations at the piano.  The piano wasn’t just about music.  It was about imagination.  I have admired so many composers along the way, but my mom influenced my approach to sound.

If it’s not confidential, will you share any new publications on the horizon?

Three more books are coming soon in the Creative Composition Toolbox  series.  In addition, I’m working on three Latin music books.  They will be very accessible and fun to teach.

Do you have a favorite non-classical artist?  Does this person influence your compositions?

I am constantly exploring new artists, wondering what’s new.  Hiromi certainly has my attention right now.  I think every artist I admire has a certain amount of influence on me.  Listening refreshes my perception of what can be done with harmonies and rhythms.

We know at one time you were composer-in-residence with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.  Do you still create in that capacity?  If not, what are you up to outside of teaching piano/composition and composing for Alfred Music Publishing?

This fall, one of my student-inspired band pieces will be choreographed and premiered at a national dance conference.  In the coming months, I will have two student composition residencies, one with a string orchestra and another with a 120-piece high school band.  Both include commissions.  Plus, I’ve started weekly composer workshops at a local arts center.  I like keeping busy with a variety of projects!

What was one of the most unusual projects you did this year?

I was a surprise guest at a summer piano camp and taught young students to compose “alien space music.”  Before we composed, we put on aluminum foil caps with antennae for galactic inspiration!  That was a day to remember …

What is one thing folks might not know about you?

My family life!  I’m married to a gregarious guy named Greg, and we have an adventurous son, Nick.  Nick was in Africa for three years in the Peace Corps, and now he is going to China.

What is one of your favorite things to do?

I like to dance.  Right now, I’m exploring Latin dancing, but I also make up silly dances when nobody is looking.

What makes you happiest?

Surprises.  I love surprise moments, surprise activities that I’ve never done before, surprise comments that make me laugh.

For more about Wynn-Anne Rossi, “Like” Wynn-Anne Rossi Music on Facebook and check the interesting discussion board.

For books and collections by Wynn-Anne Rossi, click here.

For solo sheets by Wynn-Anne Rossi, click here.

Click here for spooky (and fun!) Halloween pieces by Wynn-Anne Rossi.  Have them right now with e-Print!

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“For His Contribution to Music”: Sir George Shearing, 1919-2011

February 16, 2011
George Shearing

Sir George Shearing

The 2011 Grammy Awards have scarcely ended and the music world mourns the loss of jazz pianist and legend, George Shearing.  Recognized for orchestrated and inventive jazz, he created 300 compositions, but is most well-known for Lullaby of Birdland.  Among his many awards and honors are honorary doctoral degrees (Westminster College, Hamilton College and DePauw University), two Grammys in 1982 and 1983, respectively, and knighthood bestowed in 2007 by Queen Elizabeth II.

When the letter requesting his appearance before the Queen was read to him, George simply said, “I don’t know why I’m getting this honor… I’ve just been doing what I love to do.”  And, when asked by the press how he felt about receiving the highest honor the Queen can give, he replied, “My mind keeps flashing back on my beginnings as pianist playing in a pub for the equivalent of $5.00 a week.  What a journey it has been from that pub to Buckingham Palace.  Receiving such an honor as a knighthood might also show young people what can be achieved in life if one learns his craft and follows his dreams.”

While many of us, as musicians and students, may not achieve the status of knighthood, perform in the presence of three U.S. presidents, win Grammys, or actively perform until the age of 85, may we all learn our craft and follow our dreams.

Click here to see a list of music by and books about George Shearing.

*Quotes and biographical information taken from the George Shearing website.  For further information, please visit his website at www.georgeshearing.net

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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.

http://www.ahntrio.com/v2/

http://www.ahntrio.com/v2/ahntrio.html

http://video.whyy.org/video/1524351067/

http://www.facebook.com/ahntrio

http://www.myspace.com/ahntrio

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VT2SOv2Z0E

Music Advocacy

The Soundtrack of our Lives

November 18, 2010

Recently, while watching an episode of Biography about the movie Jaws, my mind wandered back to the summer of my tenth year, to our family vacation in Florida and a visit to the theater where we saw, of all things, the movie Jaws.  Don’t ask me why, on a family vacation to the beach, we wanted to see a movie about a man-eating shark loose in the ocean ravaging innocent people, but that’s what we did.

The year was 1975.  No one had heard of Steven Spielberg yet, but everyone was talking about this movie.  The terror!  It all came down to one thing:  the soundtrack.  They played a short section of the film without the music, and then they played the same section again with the music added in.  What power those few notes held!  And I mean that literally, for John Williams chose to utilize only a few notes to instill terror and fear into those watching the film — and it worked, brilliantly!  Would this film have reached the same heights of success had it not been for those famous notes?

I began to think about how our each of our lives also has a soundtrack attached to it — much like a movie does.  From the nursery rhymes that our mothers sang to us when we were toddlers to the songs we were taught in Sunday School.  The songs we learned in elementary school or the one that we played for our first piano recital.  We remember our first dance or the music we listened to the first summer we drove our own car, and the tunes we listened to on the radio during our first date will always take us right back there!  Who can forget the music from our senior prom, the first dance at our wedding, or even a favorite Christmas carol that we never tire of hearing?

These are the sounds that are the soundtrack of our lives, for our lives are filled with music every day.  When you hear talk of cutting music programs from our schools and distributing those funds to other, “more important” programs, remind those people about the music that makes up the soundtrack of their lives.  We are not talking about simply a “subject,” but a real part of who we are.  We are exposed to music in some way almost every minute of the day through the internet, in advertising, on television, radio… it is everywhere.

Those who want to dismiss music from our schools might not be swayed by research demonstrating that children learn better when they are exposed to music, or that it makes us better, more rounded adults;  but maybe they can identify with something that tugs at a memory within them — something from their own soundtrack.  We all have one, it is the soundtrack of our lives.

Culture

A Random Act of Culture

November 16, 2010
If you were one of the lucky shoppers at Macy’s in Center City Philadelphia at noon on Saturday, October 30, 2010, you enjoyed an unforgettable experience!  The Opera Company of Philadelphia brought together over 650 choristers from 28 participating organizations to perform an impromptu rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s “Messiah,” accompanied by the Wanamaker Organ, the world’s largest pipe organ. This special event was one of a series of “Random Acts of Culture” to be sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation over the next three years. This video is so inspiring, I can’t wait to see and hear the next event in the series. Who knows, I might even be one of the unsuspecting people in the crowd to be surprised and delighted when it happens!

    Need the link?  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wp_RHnQ-jgU

Archive

Moving toward “Blended” Worship

October 26, 2010
Worship Band Play Along

Worship Band Play Along

If you are a minister of music and have been considering moving your music ministry toward a more blended style of worship, but you aren’t quite sure how to begin with the personnel you have, let me recommend a series to you that is versatile and valuable and will offer you many options as you begin to introduce new and exciting worship ideas to your congregation.

The books are called the Worship Band Play-Along series — there are five different volumes available and a sixth to be released any day now.  One of the wonderful features of the books is that they are adaptable for just about any situation.  If you are just introducing your congregation to worship music, you can have your current pianist and organist accompany you as you teach the choruses to your congregation.  If you already have an overhead or currently utilize PowerPoint, you can use that to show the lyrics.  As your congregation gets more comfortable with the choruses, your instrumentalists (pianist and organists) can begin to play along with the CDs that accompany the books.  This will offer a fuller sound and keep your live musicians from feeling unnecessary.

This set of books is a wonderful tool to implement current praise and worship music into your church’s music program.  The music that is chosen for these volumes is theologically sound and the arrangements are easy to play, sing and learn.  There are separate books available for keyboard, vocals, guitar, bass, and drums, but you only purchase what you need for your particular congregation.  One of the volumes is even dedicated to Christmas music, so that every time of year is covered.

These choruses are familiar and popular and the recordings are of the highest quality.  I have used this series in my own church with great success.  This is a wonderful tool to assist you, as a music director, in taking your church music program to an authentic “blended” worship.

Click here to see more information about the series.

Culture

Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter

August 19, 2010
Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter

Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter

For anyone who lived through the turmoil of the 1970s, songs like Close To You, Superstar, and Rainy Days and Mondays are a part of your history. Some people openly enjoyed the music of the Carpenters, others called them “cheesy” and “bubblegum” — but secretly listened to and fell in love with the velvet voice of Karen Carpenter. The way she sang so effortlessly of life and love betrayed the fact that she was barely more than a teenager. She was my first crush, and I am not ashamed to say that I still love her and the music that so deeply touched my heart as a youngster.

A biography on the late Karen Carpenter was recently completed by my dear friend Randy Schmidt, a music educator in Texas. The title of the book was taken from a Rogers and Hart tune of the same name, an unreleased track that Karen Carpenter recorded for a television special in the late ’70s but wasn’t released until years after her death. The book is called Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter.

Little Girl Blue is an honest, intimate look into the tragic life and death of Karen Carpenter. She has been called simply “The Voice” and described as being “phonogenic”; and while there have been many documentaries produced about the music of Karen Carpenter, there has never been an honest, in-depth look at the life of Karen Carpenter. Now for the first time, we can see inside this beautiful woman, through the eyes of those closest to her. This book reveals many poignant details about her – about the performer, and about the little girl inside who so desperately wanted to be loved.

We all know the music; it is a tapestry of our childhood, our adolescence, our life. Most of us have heard the story, we know about her battle with anorexia nervosa. Now, we can learn about the person who gave us the beautiful music – the drummer who always thought of herself as an instrumentalist who happened to sing, rather then the tender vocalist she was. Karen Carpenter will go down in the annals of music history as one of the greatest vocalists of her generation and will join legends like Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Ella Fitzgerald as one of the greatest vocalists of any time. While it may sound cliché, when she died at the age of 32, she had “only just begun to live…”   It is an honor and a privilege for me to recommend this new biography to you.

Click here to get more information about the book.

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Randy Schmidt is considered an expert on the music of the Carpenters and has served as creative consultant for several television documentaries on their lives and music, including the E! True Hollywood Story, A&E’s Biography, and VH1’s Behind the Music. He has also previously published a book entitled Yesterday Once More: Memories of the Carpenters and Their Music.

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The Power of “Glee”

August 5, 2010
 
Glee

Glee

Don’t Stop Believin’, Jump, Somebody to Love, Sweet Caroline, Can’t Fight This Feeling — these songs have two things in common: 

  1. They have all been performed on the hit television show Glee
  2. 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.

Archive

The Right to Practice

June 17, 2010
The right to practice

The right to practice

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.