Earthworms’ Castings

With Jean Ponzi

Endangered Species – Tuneful!

What happens when humans SING about creatures that our actions have endangered? Other humans – of all ages – can learn about these critters and learn to care about them!
FIRE DOG, a local pop-rock band with rockin’ Earth awareness, is ready this month to release a whole CD of original songs, their Endangered Species Project album. By playing, literally, with these issues, the FIRE DOG artists believe they can help us help them, happily.
The project was spawned by “Hellbender,” a catchy ode to a critically endangered Missouri stream species composed by FIRE DOG leader Mark Pagano. This tune inspired responses from parents like Michael Berg, who works with the Sierra Club Missouri Chapter.

“My son’s first words were ‘Hellbender salamander amphibian’ and ‘cryptobranchus alleganiensis,’” says Berg. “The Hellbender song has been an important part of his life, sparking his concern for preserving our natural environment.” Berg and his son are looking forward to learning the new songs on FIRE DOG’s Endangered Species Project CD.

Pagano was, in turn, inspired to use his Hellbender song as a teaching tool in a songwriting curriculum he developed in St. Louis Public Schools. “People started to ask me if I would consider doing an educational album,” Pagano says, “around the theme of endangered species.” He and his FIRE DOG band-mates, Celia Shacklett and Mike Schurk, researched facts for their lyrics with staff of the Saint Louis Zoo and other area environmental experts.

In 2016, Pagano received an Artist Support Grant from Regional Arts Commission to produce the new CD. Endangered Species Project tunes will take to The Stage at KDHX at noon on Saturday, February 17. This CD release concert is presented by the KDHX Saturday morning family show, Musical Merry-Go-Round.

It’s going to be a really fun show,” Pagano says, “and KDHX is the perfect venue to bring this music to the whole family.”

In addition to songs about endangered animals like the Magic Rabbit and the Manatee, the album also touches on STEM-related topics with songs like “Habitat” and “Kingdom Phylum.” One song teaches the exact language of the Endangered Species Act.

I love how science, nature and relationships rock in these tunes, joyfully – and usefully! Thanks to FIRE DOG, I will now always remember the order of bio-classification – Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species – as I sing it, to myself and probably when I’m giving public talks about biodiversity! There’s nothing better than a burst into song to engage minds and hearts with an idea. Especially about creatures like the American Crocodile or Nutria, species we may never see because our impacts made them even more scarce than they are naturally.

Our colleague-in-Green Michael Berg notes, “In today’s political climate where the Environmental Protection Agency is under attack, this kind of music is more important than ever. The Endangered Species Project gives kids and adults a fantastic way to be able think about critical issues, learn taxonomy, and dance at the same time!”

Connect to FIRE DOG’s music and their February 17 KDHX CD release concert at www.seefiredogroll.com.

Jean Ponzi sings whenever she can in her weekly Earthworms interviews, podcasting from KDHX St. Louis Independent Media, available through iTunes.