Two of the most popular pedagogies in the United States today revolve around the teaching of Zoltan Kodály or Carl Orff. Maybe you've been curious about the similarities and differences between these two practices. Maybe you follow one pedagogy exclusively. Maybe you have no idea about either set of practices. I personally follow the teaching and methods of Carl Orff and his contemporaries. However, I've always had a huge respect for Kodály teachers and have wanted to know more about how that practice works.
Where did this training get its name?
Orff: Orff-Schulwerk (schoolwork) was developed over the course of several decades during the first half of the last century in Germany. Though there were many collaborators and teachers involved, the bulk of the pedagogy came from the collaboration of Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman. These two conceived an approach to building musicianship in every learner through the integration of music, movement, speech, and drama. None can deny the contribution of Keetman, though her name is not included in the title of the approach.
Where did this training come from?
Orff: The Schulwerk was developed in Germany during a time of great upheaval and change, namely the decades surrounding World War II. Though they faced a great deal of hardship, Orff and Keetman persisted in research of methods and principles of music education right up to the point of the banning of their work and the closing of their school by the Nazis. The development of the Schulwerk carried on after the War, though many things were significantly changed (for example all their original instruments were destroyed in a bombing).
What's a Brief Summary of how this approach works?
Orff: Orff believed that the best music education for children was never to be taught as a stand alone subject. He said, “Elemental music is never just music. It's bound up with movement, dance and speech, and so it is a form of music in which one must participate, in which one is involved not as a listener but as a co-performer.” With participation being of upmost importance, Orff said, "Experience first, then intellectualize." Students echo, sing, clap, play, move, listen and so much more. They experience possibilities as they actively participate and make choices that affect the final product. One of the most fascinating elements of this approach is the focus on expressive movement. The Gunther school (where this movement really started) was not a music school but a school for dance and gymnastics. Orff and Keetman believed that music and movement were tied so closely together that you couldn't really have one without the other. Students would improvise dances to fit the music they heard and would then sit down and improvise music to fit the dance elements that they saw their peers performing.
NAme Five words or phrases that you think describe this approach.
Orff: Collaboration, Possibility, Rhythm, Creativity, Integration
If you were teaching a new folk song to students, how would your approach suggest you tackle the project?
Orff: My teaching approach for introducing a new song will change a bit depending on the grade of the student, but the technique that I use is generally the same. I start with experience where the students hear the melody and words and echo through basic repetition. Once they begin to master the main melodic line I start to introduce a new rhythmic element like a steady beat or maybe an ostinato. Often this is introduced through body percussion or movement. The new element might turn into a part played on a percussion instrument, whether that be pitched or nonpitched percussion. As students master this concept another layer is introduced, again through basic repetition and experience. Piece by piece the greater song is slowly worked out from basic to complex as new parts are gently added to create a greater whole. A finished song might involve a few parts or a multitude of different instruments, movements, vocal parts, and more. From a teacher’s aspect, Orff-Schulwerk is a process of breaking down each activity into its simplest form and then presenting those steps one at a time to eventually become a completed performance.
Do you have to have a lot of instruments/books/training to make this work?
How has this method changed your teaching?
Orff: Scaffolding is always something that’s difficult for new teachers to master and I was no exception. When you first start teaching you have to learn how to break a complex task into its component parts and teach students how to create something wonderful, starting with the simple and moving to the complex. Orff Schulwerk gave me a strong foundation and helped me see the connection between the simple start to the multi-faceted finish. At the same time the Schulwerk really helped me to understand the infinite variety that was at my fingertips if I allowed the students to take ownership and join in the music making process. Following the Orff process I was able to let go of some of my anxiety and a little bit of my Type A control and in the process I was able to help students feel free, confident, and capable.
What do you love about this technique?
Certification -- LEvels Training
Orff: I just completed Level II of the Orff-Schulwerk training at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas and I can guarantee that I'll be back next summer for Level III. The training includes two weeks of singing, playing percussion instruments, improving recorder skills, exploring movement techniques, and much more. We spend a huge amount of time playing games, experiencing folk dances and cultural movement, and improvising in new and exciting ways. I can honestly say that I feel like a much more accomplished musician and am a much more capable teacher even after only two levels of the training. It expands your worldview and helps you see how so many different aspects of music education can fit together in a flawless and exciting way. Check out more information about Levels training in your area by checking out this link on the AOSA website or learn more about how to certify at Baker University by going to this page sponsored by the Kansas Orff Chapter.
Professional Organizations -- National Level
Orff: The American Orff Schulwerk Association (AOSA) is the umbrella organization that covers all organizations in the United States. It's a great place to start when looking for local chapters and resources.
Professional Organizations -- Local Chapters!
The next KMEK workshop will feature Leigh Ann Mock-Garner. She is a total inspiration and the whole reason I ever wanted to teach elementary music. It will be in Wichita on Saturday, Sept. 27th. Mark your calendar! You can always find out more info about KMEK, the Kodaly Certification Courses, and upcoming workshops at http://www.kmek.org/
KMEK will also be hosting the next regional MKMEA (Midwest Kodaly Music Educators Association) Conference here in Wichita, KS Oct. 2015. Lots of excitement in these next two years!
Orff: Kansas has a couple options if you’re interested in joining a local chapter. The Heart of America (HOA) Orff Chapter serves the Greater Kansas City area and the Kansas Orff Chapter (KOC) welcomes members from all across the state of Kansas. Both organizations provide a variety of workshops throughout the school year and if you’re a member of one you get member-pricing for admission at events held by either. The workshops that the KOC and HOA chapters provide are amazing! Just this weekend Artie Almeida is coming to Kansas City to present an “Orff and Running” worship and last year we welcomed Jeff Kriske and Randy DeLelles, the authors of the popular “Gameplan” curriculum. And those are just TWO of the many events that the KOC and HOA chapters sponsor each year!
You can get more information about the Kansas Orff Chapter or the Heart of America Orff Chapter by visiting these sites.
Books that Might be Good Reads
Good websites for further exploration
Thanks again to everyone for reading and a HUGE thanks to Lindsay Jervis from the Pursuit of Joyfulness blog for her wonderful insights. Be sure to head over to her blog and see what other great ideas she has to share.