J.W. Pepper’s Latest Pop Picks for Upcoming Concerts


Make Your Next Concert Pop! J.W. Pepper’s Latest Pop Picks for Upcoming Concerts 

Some of the coolest new arrangements for concert band, string orchestra, and choir are coming directly from our favorite movies and television shows—a win-win-win for musicians, directors, and audiences alike.

That’s because adding pop repertoire to your concerts checks a lot of boxes. Students will love practicing and playing songs they’ve heard on their streaming apps, TV, and the big screen as they develop important foundational music concepts, often without even realizing they’re learning as they go. Pop tunes can also serve as a recruitment tool for your program. When students know a particular song—and your band, orchestra, or choir starts performing it—it keeps members coming back and other students wanting to join.

Because this music tends to be on the modern side, directors will also find cool new ideas for engaging different sections of the group. Audience members will also recognize and know the songs, which will lead to better connections during performances.

So whether you’re planning a spring concert or thinking ahead to commencement ceremonies or other performances, we’ve rounded up some selections of the latest and greatest in pop arrangements to help you get started.

Pop Selections for Concert Band

What Was I Made For? by Billie Eilish O’Connell & Finneas O’Connell, arr. Michael Brown – Featured in the Barbie movie, this soft-rock ballad is about finding purpose in life. Arranged by Michael Brown, who is very well known for his pop arrangements, this emotional selection is scored for young bands. It teaches lyrical playing and phrasing and features a beautiful flute solo and rich brass harmonies. The song also won Best Original Song at the 2024 Oscars as well as the coveted Song of the Year and Best Song Written for Visual Media at the 2024 Grammys, so your band and audiences are sure to love this one.

Dance the Night by Dua Lipa, Andrew Wyatt, Mark Ronson & Caroline Ailin, arr. Michael Story – This fun dance-pop tune is also from the Barbie movie. Arranged for band by Michael Story, this selection is great for teaching dotted rhythms and offers a variety of articulations and sixteenth-note rhythms. The percussion scoring creates a catchy dance groove, and comfortable ranges make it perfectly accessible to young middle school bands or an easy last-minute addition for an upper middle school or high school level band.

Taylor Swift: Eras by Taylor Swift, arr. Johnnie Vinson – What pop music list in 2024 would be complete without Taylor? A nod to the iconic Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, this medley for young band features signature hits from her various “eras,” including You Belong With Me; Enchanted; I Knew You Were Trouble; Shake It Off; Look What You Made Me Do; Cardigan and Anti-Hero. It offers a variety of styles, with every section sharing the iconic melodies. It also serves as a perfect example of how to introduce solid musical concepts to your students while piquing their interest with songs and artists they already know and love.

Wonka by Neil Hannon, Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley & Jody Talbot, arr. Douglas E. Wagner – This medley highlights the music from the new movie Wonka along with classic pieces from the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Arranged for young concert band, this selection combines iconic tunes such as Pure Imagination and Oompa Loompa with new songs like Scrub Scrub and You’ve Never Had Chocolate Like This, offering a variety of musical styles from lyrical to swing to tango. It also features simple meter and key changes, simple rhythms, and opportunities to teach chromaticism.

You’ve Never Had Chocolate Like This by Neil Hannon, arr. Michael Story) – Want to dive deeper into the chocolate world of Willy Wonka? This tune is arranged for young concert band and is great for teaching triplet rhythms and swinging eighth notes as well as tempo and meter changes.

Oompa Loompa by Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley, arr. Chris M. Bernotas – This melody will be instantly recognizable by students and audiences alike. It’s also a great way to introduce young bands to the world of Wonka! Its scoring has simple chromatism as well as dynamics and articulations, with all sections getting the catchy melody. This song is featured in all the Wonka movies, so it will be a familiar favorite for the entire crowd.

Wednesday (Main Title) by Danny Elfman, arr. Carol Brittin Chambers – At Pepper, we are huge fans of Danny Elfman’s music. We’re also huge fans of Wednesday, which features a lot of Elfman’s music. Perfect for upper middle school and high school bands, this arrangement perfectly captures Elfman’s dark and ethereal style with chromatic harmonies, shifting tonal centers, and colors that take you to another world.

Any Way You Want It by Neil Schon & Steve Perry, arr. Michael Story – Everybody loves some ’80s rock. Written for beginning-level band, this tune features a rock beat that drives the arrangement and frees up the winds to play easy rhythms while still capturing the catchy melody. It also shows up in plenty of movies and TV shows, so even the younger kids in class will know it.

Pop Choral Selections 

Dreamers by Jeon Jung-Kook, Patrick Devine, Mustapha El Ouardi & Nadir Khayat, arr. Jack Zaino – This cool song has an engaging pop beat perfect for concerts, graduations, and more. Recorded by BTS frontman Jungkook and Fahad Al Kubaisi, it features driving rhythms and a memorable chorus that delivers the message of teamwork and striving for a common goal. Your choir may sing the full version, which includes a solo in Arabic, or choose the optional cut for a shorter version without the solo. A pronunciation guide and translation are also included. It is available in four voicings: SATB, three-part mixed, two-part, and TTB, so it can work for almost any choir.

I’m Just Ken by Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt, arr. Mac Huff – Performed by Ryan Gosling in the Barbie movie, this humorous lament focuses all on Ken. An ’80s-style ballad, your tenors and basses will love performing this song—it will also offer them a chance to practice their acting skills as they sing! It may be performed with piano or with instrumental parts which may be purchased separately.

Here Comes the Sun by George Harrison, arr. Matt & Adam Podd) – This Beatles hit has been reimagined by the Podd brothers, who are known for creating fresh, fun arrangements with a modern feel. This version sings like a concert piece but with a familiarity and appeal that will resonate with choir members of any age, allowing them to deliver a performance your audience will enjoy.

Good to Go by Daphne Willis, arr. Anita Cracauer – A delightful collaboration between up-and-coming production duo Lonis and Nashville singer Daphne Willis, this catchy line-dance bop features the brass in an instrumental dance break and showcases a soloist for the second verse and final chorus. Available in three voicings—SATB, SAB, and SSA—this selection is perfect for mixed or treble choirs.

What Was I Made For? by Billie Eilish O’Connell & Finneas O’Connell, arr. Jennifer Lucy Cook – Concert bands can’t have all the fun performing this beautiful song. We love this arrangement, which is more of a concert piece with the lush harmonies and seamless texture that arranger Jennifer Lucy Cook is known to deliver. An interesting take on this Barbie movie song, this introspective piece digs a little deeper than you might expect. It’s available in three voicings: SATB, SSA, and TTB.

Apple Tree by Aurora Aksnes, arr. Katerina Gimon – This concert pop piece for SATB and SSAA voices transcends genres—it’s all about the potential hidden in all of us. While the texture of this piece created for the Carrie Tennant Choral Series and Vancouver Youth Choir is acapella, it includes both percussion and body percussion that really enhance its rhythmic and modern feel. 

Hurricane by Fleurie, arr. Anita Cracauer – This dramatic song Fleurie would be a powerful addition to a show choir or pop concert. This selection offers a metaphor to describe what it’s like to bottle up your feelings—until you can’t. Whether you’re searching for a strong opener or a change-of-pace second number, this piece fits the bill. It opens with a calm alto solo before ramping up into a heavy-rock storm for the full choir. It’s available for SATB, SAB, and SSA.

Dance the Night by Dua Lipa, Andrew Wyatt, Mark Ronson & Caroline Ailin, arr. Alan Billingsley – There’s a reason so many songs from the Barbie movie are part of this roundup! This hit is made accessible to choirs, especially as a dance number for show choirs or choirs that have room for riser choreography. Its disco-pop sound melds together with tight harmonies in a variety of voicings, including SATB, three-part mixed, and two-part or SSA. It’s great for younger choirs or choirs of any age.

Celebration by Kool & the Gang, arr. Kate Crellin – You can never go wrong with some Kool & the Gang! This contemporary a cappella pop selection is great for SATB choirs. Plus, everything is notated, from the vocal percussion to the bass line, which means it will work even for directors who are a little less experienced with contemporary a cappella. Every voice gets a chance to sing the melody in this piece—definitely a cause for celebration!

Songs of a Disney Sidekick A Choral Medley arranged by Alan Billingsley – You can’t go wrong closing a show with a medley of classic Disney songs! Featuring the timeless tunes Under the Sea; The Bare Necessities; Friend Like Me; Hakuna Matata and Be Our Guest, your choir will have a blast singing these favorites—and so will your audience as they sing along with them. Available in three voicings, including SATB, SAB, and two-part, this selection can be performed by almost any choir.

Pop Selections for String Orchestra

Dance the Night by Dua Lipa, Andrew Wyatt, Mark Ronson & Caroline Ailin, arr. Michael Story – Of course, we had to include this Barbie hit for strings, too! This awesome accessible arrangement is great for teaching sixteenth notes, syncopations, and staccato. It also features easy dotted quarter rhythms without shifting. Your students—and the audience—will definitely know this song, making it a wonderful addition to your next concert.

Choose Your Fighter by Ava Max, Henry Walter & Michael Pollack, arr. Chris M. Bernotas – There are so many great songs from the Barbie movie—Choose Your Fighter included! This easy pop arrangement is perfect for teaching dotted eighth and sixteenth rhythms while reinforcing low first-finger and hooked bowings. This piece is rhythmic and fun, and very accessible to your students.

You’ve Never Had Chocolate Like This by Neil Hannon, arr. Michael Story – This song from Wonka gives string players a rare chance to swing. It features lots of style and tempo changes but with easy accompaniment rhythms, making it very accessible to your orchestra. It also lends numerous teaching moments like reinforcing easy chromatics, hooked bowings, triplets, and more. While this arrangement is written for strings, piano, a drum set and other percussion, it’s completely playable by strings alone.

Oompa Loompa by Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley, arr. Chris M. Bernotas – Perfectly suitable for young orchestras, this classic will be instantly recognizable by your students and your audience. This arrangement is easy to teach and even more fun to learn, with chromatic notes, simple shifts, and optional percussion parts. All the sections have the chance to play the melody, too, which will help engage all of your students regardless of the instrument they play.

Wonka by Neil Hannon, Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley & Jody Talbot, arr. Douglas E. Wagner – Like Wonka for band, this medley also features a pairing of classic and new tunes from the movie, from Oompa Loompa to Scrub Scrub. Pop medleys like this are especially fun additions to concerts and other performances because they allow students to dabble in many different styles in one song. This selection in particular combines styles like tango, lyrical, and swing as it seamlessly weaves in and out of key and meter changes. It will also help your students reinforce several fingering patterns and easy chromaticism.

This is just a small sampling of the latest pop hits you can add to any upcoming show. Explore more new selections for choir, concert band, and orchestra.

Pepper has served musicians since 1876. We hope you find our blog posts informative and a wonderful gateway to news in the world of music.


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