Despite the fiscal challenges classical music faces in today’s changing musical landscape, I’m very grateful for the few remaining radio stations dedicated to classical and jazz. I set the tone for my day by listening to our local gem of the airways on my way to work.
A few days ago, I turned on the radio to a piece whose introduction I had missed, but whose melodic strains snagged my attention with their familiarity. I agonized through the remainder of the selection, because I just couldn’t put my finger on the title. When the host finally announced, “That was ‘Poet and Peasant Overture’ by Franz von Suppé,” I thought, “Now I remember why I know this piece. We played it in orchestra when I was in high school.
Another morning, the station played Borodin’s “Polovtsian Dances” back to back with Holst’s “First Suite in E Flat” for wind band. I know and love both pieces due to my involvement as a trombone player in band and orchestra throughout my years in school. The memories of working through the intricacies in each, coupled with recollections of the great times I had in those years, carried me to work with a smile on my face.
Had it not been for my directors’ dedication to exposing their ensembles to the great, timeless works for band, orchestra, and chorus, I’m certain my musical knowledge would lack much of the depth it gained in those formative years of training. There’s a cultural literacy music students gain from playing the great works of the past, information they’ll learn nowhere else in current Western society. Serious music simply isn’t part of the daily experience of the average school-aged student anymore. Ensemble directors bear the awesome privilege and responsibility of exposing students to great repertoire like Aaron Copland’s “Hoedown” in a more complete context than snippets that underscore old commercials for beef.
We at J.W. Pepper value time-honored, proven repertoire for student and professional musicians, and that’s why we’ve developed a selection of products we call our Basic Library. Titles like Leroy Anderson’s “Bugler’s Holiday,” Alfred Reed’s “The Hounds of Spring,” Leonard Bernstein’s “Overture to Candide,” and John Ness Beck’s “Every Valley” appear among hundreds of other staple works for both ensembles and solo musicians, and the blue star designation on these pieces gives directors the assurance that such purchases create a solid foundation for any music library.
Whether musicians are looking for staples in musical theater solos, band or orchestra music that has withstood the test of time, jazz charts laden with the resonance of their eras, or choral masterworks, they can find all this and more in the Basic Library. Any music library that includes such foundational repertoire is sure to expose performers to the most significant and memorable compositions throughout history. I know my directors built their concert repertoire around many pieces that reside in the Basic Library, and my musical experience, to this day, is richer for it.