Every spring, piles of new sheet music are stacked in nooks and crannies around J.W. Pepper’s corporate office. The works come from a thousand different publishers and represent the best creative efforts of innumerable composers who write music for choral, instrumental and church groups every year. The arrival of the sheet music marks the beginning of review season at Pepper – a time when teams of music editors analyze each composition to see if it will be selected as an Editors’ Choice piece.
That review process is extensive. The team members utilize their years of experience as teachers and directors to evaluate works.
“We listen to everything with the critical ear of the customer,” said Tom Sabatino, J.W. Pepper’s Choral Sales Manager. “We have a prescribed set of rubrics which ask: Is the music suitable for education? Is the text appropriate? Is the range appropriate? We want to take into consideration the difficulty level. All of these and more rubrics and considerations go into how we rate it.”
The pieces with the highest ratings are given the Editors’ Choice designation and placed in curated lists based on factors such as genre and difficulty level. For example, in concert band each year there is a list of concert and contest works that are medium-easy. For choral, there’s an annual list of works for pop, stage and screen, and for church directors there are Christmas anthems for adult choirs. These lists help teachers and directors easily find new, high-quality pieces for their particular group’s needs.
To further assist directors, Editors’ Choice pieces also have sound recordings and complete sheet music previews that allow directors to fully analyze works. These tools help teachers like Lionville Middle School music teacher Stephanie Reimers, who has been using Editors’ Choice throughout her career. She says the choices help her with the changing voices in her middle school groups, particularly the boys, and that the works also have great educational value.
“All my favorite pieces are probably Editors’ Choice pieces,” Reimers said. “You have limited resources and a limited budget. I always find myself going back to the same pieces, which are Editors’ Choice pieces.”
To view Pepper’s Editors’ Choice selections, visit jwpepper.com/ec. To learn more, watch our video on Editors’ Choice: