Groundhog Scherzo

by Paul Jennings

I'm not sure that we have done a tune like this before... similar, yes, but this combines a lot of elements in a way that we think you and your students will enjoy. According to Merriam-Webster, a scherzo is "a sprightly humorous instrumental musical composition or movement from a larger work." And considering the nature of the world's approach to the groundhog on his (or her) special day, it felt like a scherzo was in order.

Inspired by some of the best scherzos in traditional literature, we have created a work that lets you feature your students singing and/or playing kazoos, Boomwhackers®, recorders, and unpitched percussion instruments. The tracks are constructed so that you can use any or all of the parts, mixing or matching to suit your needs.

Kazoos - If you have never used kazoos with your classes, they can be lots of fun. A quick lesson: Many students will try to put the kazoo in their mouth or blow into it. Instead, they should form a singing embouchure as though they are going to sing "ooh" or "oom" and keep their lips relaxed. Then, putting the short end to their lips, they should hum (not blow) against the end of the kazoo. The sound is produced by sympathetic vibrations causing the waxed paper in the resonator channel to move in along with the humming. For the best results, try using the syllables "doo" for longer tones and "doot" for shorter, more staccato notes. Practice these when warming up to be sure that everyone is doing it correctly. You would do well not to buy really cheap kazoos – they may be of questionable origin, and many are so poorly constructed that they are unplayable. Reasonably priced ones are available from many sources, including There you can also find a download about how to make you own. Go to "Downloads" and look in the "Other" section.

Boomwhackers® - The optional BW part can be played on a diatonic set, though a bass diatonic set will sound better. This part can also be played by keyboard or any pitched Orff instrument, including xylophone or marimba. For more info on using Boomwhackers, check out the great Boomwhacker Central area of

Recorders - The recorder part is optional, but will add a lot to the performance. And if the part is a little hard for some players, feel free to simplify it, reducing it all the way down to the notes G and A if you like.

Be sure to listen to just the instrumental tracks with your classes, zeroing in on what the orchestra plays. The strings are especially impressive, and provide the great pulse to the entire work.

Note that while the individual parts are available in this magazine (and the corresponding Student Parts which are available separately), you can also download a PDF that combines all the parts onto just one part. It's labeled "alternate combined parts." We have also recorded the student parts (no orchestra) in two segments (A and B) which you may find useful for rehearsing, or just for the fun of listening. All of these extras can be found online for free. (See details in the box on page 79.)

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.