The Red Panda

Devin loves animals. He just turned 13 and has already decided he wants to be a zoologist when he grows up. Several months ago, I showed him the video Hellbender by Saint Louis band Fire Dog. This inspired a conversation about other endangered species. Devin told me all about the red panda. We decided to write a song.

Devin’s been learning piano, but he’s still working on the white keys and has not yet tackled chords. We needed some chords to make a song and I wanted them to be chosen by Devin, so I brought over an autoharp. With this instrument you simply push down a chord button with one hand and strum all of the strings with the other hand. The buttons for chords that tend to sound good together are placed close to each other. Devin came up with several chord progressions to use for his red panda song. They were progressions I never would have thought of, but totally unique and sounded great.

These chords were then typed into Band-in-a-Box and Devin chose a style called Dog Samba. The music was then imported into GarageBand.

We then got to work on the lyrics. The original chorus was “Ailurus fulgens, the red panda.” (As a future zoologist, Devin has knowledge of the modern taxonomic classification system: Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species.) The rhythm for the chorus lyrics were input into GarageBand using musical typing with a drum sound. The drum sound was then changed to a piano and Devin moved notes up and down until he found a melody he liked. The same process was used for the verse lyrics. Verse lyrics explain what the red panda looks like, where it lives, what it eats, what eats it, and why it is endangered. As a 13-year-old-boy living in Saint Louis, it’s hard to stop poaching, habitat loss, and illegal trade in Asia, so the focus became raising awareness and the chorus lyrics were changed to a call-to-action.

Vocals were recorded in GarageBand, royalty-free images were found online, and a video was created in ScreenFlow.

As an individual with autism, communication can sometime be difficult for Devin. This songwriting process enabled Devin to organize his thoughts and clearly convey information in an enjoyable way.

The red panda is not part of the panda family.

It’s a lot smaller than the panda most people know.

The red panda is white and black and scarlet.

It lives in mountains in the Himalayan region.


We need to protect the red panda.

We need to protect the red panda.


Its diet consists of bamboo leaf tips and tender shoots,

Succulent grasses, roots and fruits, insects, and grubs.

The red panda males will kill their newborns and the young.

Snow leopards, pine martens, eagles, hawks are their predators.


We need to protect the red panda.

We need to protect the red panda.


The red panda is endangered by habitat loss.

Livestock compete for the red panda’s bamboo leaves.

Poaching by humans for pelts and meat continues to increase.

Illegal trade is decreasing their population.


We need to protect the red panda.

We need to protect the red panda.

We need to protect the red panda.

We need to protect the red panda.

Archtop Music Therapy