A History of Service: Music Education


Education is the lifeblood of any successful society, preserving the best skills and techniques by passing them down to future generations. The music world has long benefited from passionate teachers who have imparted their knowledge to others.

The founder of J.W. Pepper & Son was one of these passionate people, using his publishing company as a platform to disseminate valuable information to teachers and directors across the nation.

1878 & 1891 - Practical Guide to Arranging Band Music & Eb Clarinet music book (wood background)
Practical Guide to Arranging Band Music, circa 1878
unknown - Tutor for the Clarinet, by Otto Langely (cover)
Tutor for the Clarinet, date unknown

From the very beginning, publications like 1878’s Practical Guide to Arranging Band Music helped budding musicians learn the ins and outs of creating music. Guides like this complemented the many pieces published by J.W. Pepper at the time. In those days, music arranged for an array of ensembles was not as readily available as it is today. Often times, directors would need to adapt their music to fit instrumentation and voicing. Providing directors with instructions on how to arrange their music helped them sound their best when time came for a performance. Pepper saw that, and answered the need.

That dedication to helping instructors and directors became the core of how Pepper does business. In 1881, Pepper released How to Teach Bands and How to Teach Orchestras, providing extensive instruction in the art of teaching musical ensembles. These books contained information ranging all the way from how a staff works to how to teach each instrumentalist to produce the right tones. A few years later, the Premier Methods series followed, with lessons and instructions for specific instruments. These books accompanied the Premier series of instruments produced by the company’s manufacturing facility.

When Pepper halted publishing operations in the early 1900s, these instruction books were also discontinued. However, the dedication that James Welsh Pepper had toward music education remains a foundational principle of the company. This continues to be evident in our services and the events we sponsor. Our website is a major resource for musicians and music educators. There you can find sponsored events around the country as well as approved music lists for festivals and state competitions. And our Bookkeeper Services, My Library, and Cut Time help teachers and directors stay organized in the midst of rehearsals, performances, and an endless list of other responsibilities.

Joy of Singing John Jacobson
Joy of Singing with John Jacobson

One of the most visible examples of Pepper’s dedication to music education is our support of music reading sessions. It was 1955 when the company hosted its first session. It took place at the University of Delaware over three days. More than 500 people attended this session, and over the 60 years that followed, hundreds of thousands more would attend our many other sessions. Today, Pepper hosts or sponsors hundreds of reading sessions every year, bringing new music to directors and teachers across America.

Our customers have also benefited from the use of our reference centers located in every J.W. Pepper regional store. There, teachers can review copies of most pieces in our catalog and even play the songs on our pianos. Staff at the stores are all musicians and qualified to help customers find the perfect piece for their ensemble. In addition to our local staff and customer service representatives, our editors are also an excellent resource for our customers. These editors are dedicated to helping you find the best music available.

Choral Workshop was the predecessor to what is now called Editors’ Choice

Another duty of our editors is to select pieces each year to be included in Editors’ Choice. It takes a lot of time to prepare lessons, plan a concert, and take care of all the logistics that go into running a musical ensemble. Through Editors’ Choice, Pepper brings our customers the best new music each year. This service makes finding that perfect piece faster and easier by placing the top pieces right at your fingertips.

Pepper also maintains close relationships with music education associations from across the nation. This past year, Pepper responded to the Texas State Board of Education’s Proclamation 2015 by creating guides for Texas teachers to follow to ensure that their needs would be heard by their school boards. By working with the teachers, we helped them through what could have been a difficult transition. That is the sort of help we strive to give to everyone who comes to a Pepper location or visits our website.

Check out our YouTube channel for videos from your favorite composers and artists

Though time has passed, that dedication has not changed and it will not change in the future. For the past 140 years, J.W. Pepper been a tireless advocate for music education. The same will be true for the next 140 years and beyond.

As an educator, what do YOU feel is the most valuable service J.W. Pepper offers?

Read the rest of our A History of Service Series:

The Pepper Catalog

The Pepper Website

Editors’ Choice

Pepper Instruments

Brendan Lyons
Brendan Lyons
Brendan started at Pepper in 2012 and currently works in the Marketing department as a copywriter. A graduate of Villanova University, Brendan has been a musician for over twenty years. He is also an author, using his talents at Pepper to bring the knowledge of our experienced staff to our customers.


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