Peta Harper at Orff Institut, SalzburgOrff-Schulwerk is an approach to music education that was initiated by composer-educator Carl Orff and teaching colleague Dorothee Gunther in the 1930s, and later with Gunild Keetman from the late 1940’s onwards. Since that time it has spread throughout the world. It is concerned with what the student does to be musical.

Orff Schulwerk uses melody and rhythm as elemental forces which form the seed for musical growth. It incorporates movement as essential to the learning process because through movement, students can express their awareness and understanding of musical concepts before they can verbally explain them. The first concern of the Schulwerk is the learner and the needs of the learner for the present and the future; and it provides nourishment for the musicality of each student.

Through this approach, the student is encouraged to perform, improvise, compose and talk about music, leading to an understanding of notation and analysis. This experience (of song for example) provides the basis for deeper conceptual understanding. The Orff process enables teaching and learning to proceed from repertoire for students’ imitation and exploration, to a transfer of knowledge to students’ own performance and composition.

Creativity is one of the most important aspects of Orff-Schulwerk. Being creative demonstrates students’ growing musical independence and flexibility in musical thinking. Through emotional and intellectual responses to physical and aural experiences, students develop deep aural and musicological understanding of musical concepts and enhanced creativity.

This holistic approach is one that caters for lifelong learning. Success and confidence creating music is achieved for the student through the use of developmental, cumulative and sequential musical experiences. Students gain a deep understanding of repertoire and ‘how music works’ through their own creative process.