The American centennial was an exciting time for the nation. Cities and towns bustled with new industry and a brighter outlook replaced the bleak days that followed the Civil War. The country was looking for new pastimes, and one of the most popular was community bands. American patriotic music was experiencing a revival, with band leaders like John Philip Sousa rising to prominence.
In this and many other ways, the United States was primed for a cultural renaissance.
This was the world James Welsh Pepper was born into and the world in which the company he founded would thrive. In the early days, when the company was only a small print shop in Philadelphia, J.W. Pepper had a vision of a music company that not only printed music, but also distributed educational materials for instrumentalists and ensembles. That mission, along with an unrelenting dedication to service, made J.W. Pepper the premier music retailer in the nation in only a few years.
Exploring the last 140 years gave meaningful perspective to the many people who work here today. “As we unearthed information about the people who built and kept this company going, it seemed an important story to tell,” says Kathy Fernandes, Chief Marketing Officer. “There’s an impressive work ethic evident in both the Pepper and Burtch families that seems very much a part of the American story, and certainly a part of owning a family business. You combine that with a view into watching music unfold over the years in our country, and we knew we wanted to share this with a broader audience.”
In 2016, we celebrate 140 years of hard work and dedication to giving our customers the best service possible. The story of those 140 years is beautifully presented in this legacy film, To All Lovers of Song and Music. It tells the story of a company intertwined with the rise of the robust music community that spreads to every corner of the nation.
The film premiered at the Colonial Theater in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, an institution with its own storied history. It seemed fitting to introduce the world to our company’s history in such a historic site. There, attendees were treated to a film that depicts the depths of passion that led J.W. Pepper to where it is today.
It is a story worthy of being told, and it is our pleasure to tell it. Director Jeff Blake and the Pepper team joined together to bring history to life through a series of interviews with music historians, music teachers, and company leaders. Their testimonies are illustrated with images taken from throughout our 140 years, with special attention to the company’s place in music history and close ties to the city of Philadelphia.
“Pepper is built on a foundation of service, innovation and a dedication to the needs of our customers,” adds Scott Grady, Vice President of Brand Strategy. “This film portrays these cornerstone values in a contemporary and meaningful way.”
Making the film took the combined efforts of Director Jeff Blake’s film crew, Pepper’s own video team, and employees from across a number of other departments. It was filmed over several days in a number of different locations around the Philadelphia area. Truly a team effort, our hard work resulted in this fascinating piece of history. To name everyone involved would be impossible, but the following slideshow captures many behind-the-scenes moments from the filming of To All Lovers of Song and Music:
Pepper is proud of our history and the countless people who have contributed to making the company what it is today. We hope that everyone who sees this film sees that at the heart of it is a deep love for those who share our passion for music. If you want to learn more about our company history, please visit the “Since 1876” page and view our extensive company timeline. We hope you will enjoy your look at 140 years of service as we look forward to another 140 and beyond.
Read more about our company history in the A History of Service blog series.