Judith Lang Zaimont: “Mandarin Orange” from In My Lunchbox

We would like to thank Chris Madden for these insightful teaching tips on Zaimont’s “Mandarin Orange” from In My Lunchbox. Interested in learning more about Chris’s publications and research? Check out Technique through Repertoire Book 1 and Book 2, co-authored by Chris Madden and Jani Parsons. If you are attending the Music Teachers National Association Conference in Atlanta on Tuesday, March 19th, stop by our exhibit booth from 12:00-1:00pm to attend our Publications Book Signing and Meet-and-Greet.

Preparation and Presentation

Context: pieces that are helpful to have experienced or played before approaching this one

  • “Charlie Chipmunk” from Piano Safari
  • Amazing Grace
  • Any tune that employs the pentatonic scale

Get Ready: creative activities to explore before the first encounter with the score to prepare a student for deeper engagement and more immediate success

  • Improvise on black-key pentatonic patterns: the teacher plays an accompaniment and allows the student to experience the pentatonic scale via all five black keys. One or both hands may be used.
  • Sing pentatonic melodies and note the “resting tone.” After singing, encourage students to play the melody on black keys.
  • Once students can sing and play pentatonic melodies on black keys, encourage them to transpose them to white keys. F will be the easiest starting tone.

Initial Focus: features to pay attention to first; priority steps in reading and absorbing the music

  • Simplify the visually complex key signatures. While students might be intimidated by two contrasting key signatures between the hands, they can easily understand that the piece will be played using only black keys.
  • Identify the mixed meter: have students circle the changing time signatures in mm. 18-19 and clap these measures to ensure rhythmic and metric understanding.

Coordination Essentials: physical skills and drills for common technical challenges in the piece

  • One challenge is achieving wrist flexibility in order to play the interval of a fourth with fingers 3-5. Depending on a student’s hand size, this could be a large interval to play using these fingers.
  • Two exercises can help:
    • Play an ascending series of 4ths on white keys, focusing on a relaxed “drop and roll” motion that outlines a wrist “smile” on each new interval.
    • Practice Hanon’s Exercise No. 1, which emphasizes allowing the elbow to lead and letting a relaxed wrist follow.

We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Chris Madden’s Inspiring Artistry contribution “Zaimont: ‘Mandarin Orange’ from In My Lunchbox.” You can read more and listen to Chris discuss the piece on video by clicking here.


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