Carl Orff discusses his approach to music education for kids;
Let's see how and why
it works so well:

Let's look at an example of music education for kids, using the Orff Schulwerk approach - as applied to a POP SONG:

"To understand what Schulwerk is and what its aims are we should perhaps see how it came into being:

"Looking back, I should like to describe Schulwerk as a wild flower. I am a passionate gardener so this description seems to me a very suitable one.

"As in Nature plants establish themselves where they are needed and where conditions are favorable, so Schulwerk has grown from ideas that were rife at the time and that found their favorable conditions in my work.

"It is an experience of long standing that wild flowers always prosper [in places] where carefully planned and cultivated plants often produce disappointing results."

"In 1924, in Munich, Dorothee Guenther and I founded the Guentherschule, a school of gymnastics, music and dance. Here I saw a possibility of working out a new kind of rhythmical education, and of realizing my ideas about a reciprocal "inter-penetration" of movement and music education.

"The musical side of the instruction had to be different from what had so far been accepted as usual. The "centre of gravity" was transferred from the exclusively harmonic to the rhythmic instruments.

"I encouraged the activation of the students by the playing of their own music, that is, through improvisation and composing it themselves.

"My idea was to take my students so far that they could improvise their own music (however unassuming) and their own accompaniments to movement. The art of creating music for this ensemble came directly from playing the instruments themselves.

"It was therefore important to acquire a well-developed technique of improvisation, and the exercises for developing this technique should above all lead the students to a spontaneous, personal, musical expression.

"Now the call, the rhyme, the work, the song were the decisive factors, for with children it could not have been otherwise. Movement, singing, and playing became a unity.

"What is "elementary"? The word in its Latin form alimentarius means: pertaining to the elements, primeval, rudimentary, treating of first principles. What then is elementary music?

"Elementary music is never music alone but forms a unity with movement, dance and speech.

"It is music that one makes oneself, in which one takes part not as a listener but as a participant. It is unsophisticated, employs no big forms and no big architectural structures, and it uses small sequence forms.

"Elementary music is near the earth, natural, physical, within the range of everyone to learn it and to experience it, and suitable for the child.

"Elementary music, word and movement, play, everything that awakens and develops the powers of the spirit, that is the "humus" of the spirit, the humus without which we face the dangers of a spiritual erosion.

"When does erosion occur in Nature? When the land is wrongly exploited; for instance, when the natural water supply is disturbed through too much cultivation, or when for utilitarian reasons, forests and hedges fall as victims of "drawing-board mentality"; in short, when the balance of nature is lost by interference.

"In the same way I would like to repeat: Man exposes himself to spiritual erosion if he estranges himself from his elementary essentials and thus loses his balance.

"Just as humus in nature makes growth possible, so elementary music gives to the child powers that cannot otherwise come to fruition.

"It must therefore be stressed that elementary music in the primary schools should not be installed as a subsidiary subject, but as something fundamental to all other subjects.

I don't think Dr. Orff's own description of his approach to music education for kids can be improved upon.

However, as he himself said, and as you have seen demonstrated, Orff Schulwerk is a dynamic, cooperative approach which is continually evolving and adapting to the culture as it assimilates new musical and movement forms, and changes thereby.

If you are interested in finding out more, below are links to information sources and recommendations on teaching materials, etc.

COMPOSER CARL ORFF'S OFFICIAL WEBSITE, The authoritative source for data on the Orff Schulwerk approach to music education for kids

Visit The American Orff Schulwerk Association: Professional level certification, conferences, advocacy, etc.

Here is another great teachers' site, with a voluminous catalog of teaching media and articles, etc:

The Victorian [Southern Australian] Orff Schulwerk Association Site:



I trust you have enjoyed and have been inspired by this information on Orff Schulwerk. It's rather interesting that such a practical, flexible yet effective and powerful approach to music education for kids is not more well known.

Well, perhaps we can rectify this omission. In the words of Carl Orff: "I have done my part, now do yours"

Return to page one of Orff Schulwerk, music education for kids:

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