My Blue Panda
by Paul "Panda Guy" Jennings
Our planetary theme of the year opens up so many possibilities, not the least of which is the rate at which our little planet is losing its plant and animal diversity. One of our favorite creatures is one of the most endangered. Faced with shrinking habitat and a diet that includes just bamboo, the giant panda could well be extinct within the lifetime of our students, or even older souls like this writer. (I'm young at heart, though, but you probably know that.)
Our fourth issue is usually flavored with jazz, so we thought we'd bring jazz to our panda friends with this bluesy recorder feature. Young players are only asked to conquer C, A, G, and low E, though as B is probably in their repertoire, we included it in the optional last chord of the tune.
The tune proceeds from an oriental-inspired opening to a fairly straight-ahead blues. The accompaniment includes a jazz rhythm section, winds, and strings for a little flavor. At the beginning and at the end, as the Chinese gong trails off, you will also hear the sound of a mother panda interacting with her newborn little one.
While this is a jazz tune, there is not any improvisation, though you could certainly add it to any section of the tune, especially the repeat of the section at bar 9, or the break section at 21. Let your students play the notes used in the tune at will - that's the nature of jazz.
Lest the last chord confuse your students, know that it is there as an option that will sound really nice, especially for students who may have never played harmony before. To prepare the players, have them play each note on cue from you, top to bottom. Then split up your group four ways equally, and have everyone play together a cappella. Now try it with the tracks. Another approach is to have most players play the chord (or a unison A), then have one player improvise briefly using those four notes.
Let the other teachers know that pandas are a part of your cross curricular study. There is much media out there, especially on the Internet. We will provide a few good links, including some video on our web site under links tied to this issue. You'll also find a reduced piano/recorder score of this piece for your reference.
Online extras - The free, downloadable score mentioned can be found under the Graphics and Extras for Volume 18, No. 4 at MusicK8.com
Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.