What is the intrinsic value of an Orff Schulwerk approach?

Interview with Mary Troup

Tuesday 16th February 2016

Concluding my Postgraduate Certificate Research Project, I interviewed Mary Troup, Community Music course coordinator at the RCS, to gain a deeper understanding of her thoughts concerning the value of incorporating an Orff Schulwerk approach to Music, Dance and Speech Education as part of the studies for Community Music students. The following question provided a framework for our discussion:

What do you believe is the intrinsic value of an Orff Schulwerk approach to group music making for Higher Arts Education students studying Community Music?

  • An opportunity for learners to explore the “bigger picture” of music education; to uncover the different areas of learning that music education supports and the organic nature in which music connects with other artistic disciplines.

Mary’s response began by highlighting the rich array of learning areas that the Orff Schulwerk approach explores within elemental music education. Mary described a triangular model where elemental music, movement, dance and speech are woven together similar to the Greek concept of musiké. Drawing my attention to a ‘Learning Areas in Elemental Music Education’ map, created by Orff teacher and researcher Andrea Sangiorgio, we observed how Orff Schulwerk inspired musical activities nurture a wide variety of areas, including: creativity, psycho-social needs (e.g. expression, communication, personal and human growth), movement, dance, use of body, interdisciplinary integrations, process and product, development of the musical mind, using instruments and working with the voice. Mary expressed her belief that the multidisciplinary nature of the Orff Schulwerk approach offers Higher Arts Education (HAE) learners the opportunity to realise the “bigger picture” of their music studies; a chance to explore beyond their principal instrument studies to discover the different elements of music and how they relate to other disciplines.

  • An opportunity to uncover creative processes that can nurture the creation of original materials.

Mary acknowledged the important aspect of creativity, inherent within the Orff Schulwerk approach, and how transparent creative processes for music making can support HAE students when learning to create their own original musical materials. The Orff Schulwerk approach enables learners to experience a progressive musical process towards the creation of inclusive, original music. If students can experience these processes, first hand, then they can begin to, not only, understand, but also, form their own unique way to creating their own music for, and with, other people. Mary expressed that this was extremely important, especially as Community Music students are working in a diverse range of contexts and settings. Mary also highlighted the opportunity to work with improvisation, within safe structures, a unique aspect of the Orff Schulwerk approach, as something that is richly valuable for all learners.

  • An opportunity to acquire a wide range of skills and attributes needed for the field of Teaching Artistry.

Mary concluded by reflecting on the thoughts of Peter Renshaw as described in his ‘Simply Connect’ research. Musicians need to acquire a wide range of skills and the Orff Schulwerk approach helps HAE learners to build their own creative “framework” for personal growth; artist and creative development as artists, teachers and human beings. Furthermore, it enables HAE learners to begin to develop their own way for facilitating the creative and imaginative ideas of the people they work with on Community Music placement


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