Playing and Learning with Orff Instruments

by Vicky on November 28, 2011

Last spring I was at our library’s neighboring elementary school for their family summer reading program kickoff.  Jan Delgado from Albuquerque Public Schools was giving a fantastic story time demo, and, while part of my brain was admiring her inventive and very musical approach to early literacy, the other part of my brain kept thinking how much she reminded me of someone I played with in our high school orchestra long ago.  To my astonishment, we discovered afterwards that we did indeed go to high school and play in orchestra together in Missouri!  Her mother even remembers volunteering with my mother at our elementary school.  What a wonderful person to reconnect with!

Jan is now part of the Albuquerque school district’s ARTS Center, which offers arts resources, training, and support for the entire school district.  She told me that the ARTS Center also serves other local organizations supporting arts, education, and literacy, including the public libraries.  So I was able to borrow authentic African instruments for the kids’ puppet show, “The Musicians of Bolgatanga,” which was a real thrill for the performers.

On August 27, I attended a half-day workshop on teaching with Orff instruments.  Developed by German composer Carl Orff and his colleague Gunild Keetman in the 1920s, it’s a natural and playful approach to teaching music.  Its gentle, child-centered activities treat music as a language that every child can learn without formal instruction.

Through imitation, exploration, improvisation, and composition, students learn how to solo and how to play in an ensemble without feeling the anxiety associated with being evaluated or judged.  They don’t realize how much they are learning while they are playing and exploring.

The workshop was taught by Carla Haynes, an elementary school music teacher in Albuquerque, and she really knocked our socks off.  I took away a lot of ideas that I want to try out in story times.

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