There are many places across the country to continue your Orff Schulwerk journey through Levels training, and we are fortunate to have one of the best in our own backyard. George Mason University offers Orff Levels I, II, and III training every summer, as well as numerous supplemental opportunities. To learn more visit the George Mason University’s Orff Schulwerk Certification Program website.
For additional Teacher Education Course locations, visit the AOSA Website.
MAC-AOSA offers two scholarships annually for educators interested in professional development through Levels training – the Brigitte Warner Scholarship and the Brian Powilatis Scholarship. Read reflections on Levels training from two past recipients.
Orff Level III Reflection – Rebecca Anderson
When I was an elementary school student, my general music teacher named our performances after Orff puns such as: “We’re Orff to the Concert!” When some of us excelled on the recorder, she wrote descant parts for us. After receiving my undergraduate degree in Music Education from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2005, I received a full scholarship and a fellowship to study clarinet performance at Ohio State University. In Ohio, where I planned to practice and prepare for military band auditions, I found myself putting together small ensembles to play for local elementary schools. As I finished my graduate program, I applied for a Virginia teaching license and got my first job after eight interviews.
I received all three of my Orff Levels at George Mason University in 2012, 2016, and 2017. Since my first year of teaching, I had been using Orff resources in my classroom, but the way that I was teaching the pieces wasn’t making them sound as well as I knew they could.
From my first encounter with Orff, I was captivated by the positive nature of the community. The clear, child-friendly, brain-friendly process should be best practice in any situation. The teacher, in an ideal situation, is able to take a step back and into the role of facilitator instead of authority figure. In the upcoming school year, I feel equipped to help structure a classroom climate that is very much like an Orff community – one where students are free to try, to make mistakes, to give ideas, and to create.
Thank you, MAC-AOSA, for the wonderful opportunity to be able to afford Level III at GMU this summer.
Orff Level I Reflection: Cierra Grace
Process, not product. No truer words were ever spoken as I, along with 34 other Level I Orff students, embarked on an ingenuous yet exhilarating journey to Orff certification at George Mason University. Under the incomparable leadership of Donna Fleetwood, we danced, sang, and played our way through the two weeks of instruction in Orff basics, recorder and movement that culminated in a sharing; where the process, not the product, was certainly on display. The 35 of us were split into two sections of 17.
I was fortunate to be placed in the section with the amazing Joyce Stephansky and Shoshanah Drake as our instructors, and with that, the first week began with the uncertainty of what was to come. While I adore the Orff approach, it takes me out of my comfort zone. Luckily for me (sarcasm), I was now supposed to be out of my comfort zone with 16 other classmates that I did not know, but who were at least there with the same goal: to learn. The learning began with trepidation and vagueness. However, as the weeks progressed the usual adult inhibitions and discomfort dissipated and our group began to unify and pick up on each other’s strengths. It certainly helped that we had amazing instructors who were open to all questions and concerns and made us feel comfortable and confident.
As reticent as most of us were in the beginning of the process, the simple joy of the Schulwerk was luminous and shined through, and it was infectious, thus easing our minds. The basics course afforded me a deeper explanation of the approach. I am guilty of doing what many young teachers do: we go to an amazing Saturday workshop or to a conference and try to immediately use our favorite activities the following Monday expecting it to be amazing and it flops. I had concluded that this failure happens because time was not taken to really understand how that particular activity applies directly to the students we are teaching. I realized that I needed to learn how to better configure Orff-based lessons for my students.
Joyce and Shoshanah qualified our learning of the Schulwerk with a hands-on approach. We participated in many singing games and stories where we learned about building bricks, notating speech, pentatonic, composition, and so many other Orff basics. Perhaps my most profound discovery, my “aha” moment, was the ability to center a pentatonic on any pitch in the scale and how that can shift the mood of a piece! With my newfound understanding of the basics of the Orff approach, I am able to take lessons apart and put them back together with a better understanding; as well as create my own lessons that are appropriate for my students. Joyce and Shoshanah opened my eyes to the many things that I can create for my students.
I must admit that my misconceptions about movement in the classroom have been transformed. My previous“formal” dance experience involved an instrument on a football field during a halftime show. In regards to teaching, movement only meant teaching circle dances and locomotor/non-locomotor movements. If my students learned a circle game or dance and could show me the differences between galloping and marching, I felt that I had done my job; that my students had learned how move musically. With all of that in mind, I approached the movement aspect of our instruction with an open mind; however this class was probably the most revealing about my inhibitions mentally and physically. I never thought it was particularly my personality to crawl and roll and twist and become a vine in a jungle and to not be “medium”, nor did I believe that I was physically capable. But oddly enough, I now find myself quite comfortable doing all of those things and more! Thanks to the lovely Victoria Redfearn Cave, I can confidently improvise and accompany movement, teach dances, and choreograph all with an Orff approach.
Recorder class with John Crandall presented a different challenge. As a clarinetist and bassoonist, recorder playing was a bit easier for me to grasp. The class itself however forced me to rethink my approach to teaching recorder. I learned my instruments through method books; learn a fingering, learn a note value, put them together with a few dynamics and various tempi, and you’re making music. So naturally, that is how I thought teaching recorder was supposed to go. My students can read music, and play the exercises in the recorder method book. That approach has some benefits, but it leaves little room for creativity. I faced the reality that I’m creating robots! Throughout the two weeks, we were introduced to new ways to teach the recorder as an improvisatory instrument, as well as ways to accompany our students who are not at the recorder-learning grade level in order to enhance their Orff experience.
Which brings me to our sharing. While not perfect (process, not product), it was successful and fulfilling. Our section displayed our learning in a culmination of movement, recorder playing, and application of the Orff approach. We danced, sang, and played our way-showing what we had learned and how to use it. Watching the other levels share also gave me a sense of optimism and a glimpse of what is to come.
I would like to conclude by saying how honored I am to not only have received the Brian Powilatis scholarship but to also have been taught by his wife, Joyce. I pray that I am able to carry on their legacy through my own Orff ambitions. My personal goal through beginning my levels is to learn the proper way to incorporate Orff into culturally relevant lessons that touch children of all backgrounds. That’s the beauty of the Schulwerk. It lays a foundation and leaves the educator with the autonomy to do what he or she will. Level I training has further developed my skill set to allow me to find new and engaging ways to not only motivate students but to also motivate myself. I look forward to applying everything that I learned in my own classroom. This training has inspired me as a teacher. It has inspired me to focus on the process, not the product. Level II, here I come!