Music education is a pivotal part of keeping our culture alive, and the teachers who carry out this mission need the support of other musicians to secure the future of music. In the world of choral and classroom music, Greg Gilpin has taken up that call. As Director of Educational Choral Publications for Shawnee Press, Gilpin spends his days helping teachers unlock the full potential of their young singers.
Before finding his way to Shawnee, Gilpin gained experience as an accompanist and studio musician. His credits include time as a backup singer for Sandi Patty in addition to a number of other artists. During this time, he also developed as a conductor, composer, and arranger. These skills are what led him to Shawnee, allowing him to work with other top composers like Mark Hayes and Mary Lynn Lightfoot.
The world of music has a strong, intelligent advocate for education in Greg Gilpin. He views music as one of the keys to building well-rounded minds because of the ways it combines other disciplines. Says Gilpin, “In school, choir and music can be one place where you start applying all those other things you learned in a wonderful way.”
How teachers help children apply the many things they learn outside their music classes to what they do in choir is changing, however. Attention spans have grown shorter over time, and technology has become a greater part of how people learn and interact. But in Gilpin’s mind, technology will never completely change the way we teach and play music. While old technology is replaced by new technology, we still need teachers who know how to reach students – and there is no digital advancement that can make someone a better teacher. “Kids sing for teachers they trust,” Gilpin says. And technology cannot create trust.
Greg Gilpin is very invested in helping people be not only better teachers, but also better musicians and composers. For budding composers, Gilpin suggests focusing their efforts on developing a few ideas rather than trying to put all their ideas into one song. He also believes it is important to research what’s selling and what different publishers prefer before contacting them. Writing for the market is an important component of success. Finally, Gilpin relays a piece of advice given to him from friend and mentor Mark Hayes: don’t leave too much up to the editors. Make sure it is clear what you want in your writing.
For aspiring musicians, Gilpin’s advice is twofold. First, practice more even if you can get away with practicing less. Even the most talented musicians need practice. Second, don’t be afraid to try something whether you know you can do it or not. If someone asks you to do something, do it. As Gilpin puts it, “Don’t be fearful. Say ‘yes’! That’s what I did.”
The result of Greg Gilpin’s willingness to take on new challenges has been a wealth of valuable educational materials and excellent music. His works are enjoyed far and wide, and knowing that is one of his chief motivations. He loves to receive letters from young musicians who have performed his music. Knowing that people are choosing his music and enjoying it means the world to him. When you sing his music, “you are singing something that came from inside me, from my head and my heart. That’s what really is my motivation.”
That motivation is a pure expression of how much Gilpin loves to write music for others, and Pepper is proud to be a close partner of his. We rely on great composers like him to create music worth playing, and we in turn help composers bring their work to the world. As Gilpin says, “It takes a village to get a piece to teachers.” Pepper is proud to have Greg Gilpin as such a close neighbor.