Chapter History


by Phyllis B. Amer, Bethesda, Maryland

From The Orff Echo, September 1975

During the MENC Conference in’69, several Orff enthusiasts who realized that there was more to the Orff approach than “Cuckoo, Where Are You”, got together and decided to try to pull a group of music teachers from the area together to explore the possibilities.  Brigitte Warner volunteered to write the crucial letter, and on April 12, 1969 our first all-day workshop was held at Key School, Annapolis with Larry Wheeler and Peggy Peach as leaders.

On May 3, 1975 the Middle Atlantic Chapter Association held its 22nd, daylong workshop with Brigitte Warner, working out of Book V. This makes a total of 110 hours’ work-time that our group has spent together in the Orff approach over the past 6 years!

It is amazing how these ideas caught and “took”.

Our chapter has experienced a kind of cross-fertilization of musical ideas, Orff style, by working with many people in the many aspects of the Orff Approach; speech and poetry with Ruth Hamm; movement with Rida Davis; introductory concepts, canon and song arrangements with Jake Postl; folk dancing with Tossi Aaron; American folk music wish Konnie Koonce; Orff and the exceptional child with Lois Birkenshaw, Elizabeth Nichols has done drama with us; Lillian Yaross, Nancy Ferguson, Jane Frazee have dipped into our source books with us.  We have been privileged to work repeatedly with both Sarah Goldstein, our first Chairman, and our new president, Brigitte Warner. Both of them have led our meetings once or twice a year in our six years of existence.

Sarah, with her Toronto training and long experience teaching Orff in the Wilmington Public Schools, has led sessions in the imaginative use of source materials from Books II, III and IV in the Schulwerk; has led us in creative movement, helped us with basic instrumental techniques, and shared with us an original Chanukah program using Orff techniques with traditional songs.

Brigitte’s Orff training in Munich and Salzburg got her off to an early start. She has been teaching Orff continuously since 1951, most recently at Key School and in summer workshops over the country. She has led our chapter in dramatic story-telling and creative drama; modal improvisation; movement accompaniment; movement techniques; and improvisation; and in a program of American Christmas materials adapted to Orff techniques. And she has led us again and again in the study and performance of the basic literature in the Schulwerk; including this year’s playing of “The Christmas Story”. We have enjoyed watching demonstrations with her classes at Key School, and have been able to observe the musical growth of some of the children over a long period. All of this has been a rich and rewarding involvement both musically and personally, if it is possible to separate the two.

Our members have been generous and cooperative in sharing ideas. Louise Bradford has fed us her arrangements of songs she located in the Music Division of the Library of Congress.

Others have contributed more informally.  By experiencing the varied styles, background, training, emphasis, and musical ideas of so many different music teachers, we have, at the same time, been encouraged to think through and develop our own.

If MAOS members have been able “to dance and sing, all the day”, you know what this implies, the sustained effort and perseverance of a small group who got it going and kept it going. Our chief contributors to this have been Peggy lean Peach, Miriam Carp, Louise Bradford, and of course, Sarah and Brigitte. Three workshops a year soon became four, and now we are scheduling five.  We have met in schools in Baltimore, Wilmington, Annapolis and Washington, D.C. Starting two years ago, we introduced a yearly workshop subscription plan, which is an option to buy the whole series at a reduced rate. This has done much to stabilize our membership. Twenty-eight members of our chapter and two guests attended the Pittsburgh conference this year.

Because we serve such a wide area, our focus has been on making music together! Our talk meetings have been few. With the 1977 conference looming ahead of us, we may find ourselves talking more than we like!

Today, with the new spurt of interest from some of our public school systems, we are seeing bright new faces from Maryland, Virginia, and Washington at our meetings. MAOS needs the infusion of new ideas, the vitality the new Orff enthusiasts bring. For if our days of “Cuckoo, Where Are You” are over, if we have covered quite a few pages since then, if we understand more about the wonderful plan, the many possibilities of teaching Orff creatively, we also need to let “Orffitis” keep infecting us…