The American Orff Schulwerk Association national conference has come to a close. It was an amazing conference, with quality sessions on pedagogy, process, multiculturalism, the history of Orff Schulwerk, and the future!
What really struck me this year was not the teaching sessions and process, although both were excellent (Sofia Lopez-Ibor, Nick Wild, Stephen Neely), but the conversations. Several conversations were begun or made public at this session that will have an impact on the future of music education.
- The Name of the Game: At the President’s Panel discussion, after an excellent insight into questions such as “How do outsiders perceive AOSA and Orff Schulwerk?” and “Where do you want to see us in ten years?” the audience brought up the idea of moving away from the name American Orff Schulwerk Association towards something that would be more easily understood by a layman, and more in line with our future dreams of touching the lives of as many children and adults as possible. No concrete answer was proposed, but something along the lines of “American Elemental Music and Movement Association” would be the direction I am personally seeing, if this is pursued. Interestingly, in that particular meeting, I heard no objections raised to this concept, yet in following discussions with my colleagues and mentors, many were concerned about this as a “cutting-off” from the roots of Orff Schulwerk. Many people who have studied OS in Europe already feel that this is happening, that AOSA is splintering off in its own direction. The challenge is to allow AOSA to continue to serve the American music education needs of our children, while maintaining collegial dialogue with the Orff Institute in Salzburg, the Orff Forum, and the international Orff Schulwerk community. While I can see both sides of the issue, I certainly hope this becomes an association-wide conversation over the next few years.
- Building New Institutions: Along the same radical lines, there was un-sponsored, private discussion concerning the building of a new American Institute for Elemental Music and Movement. The title, location, funding, and mission are all still being determined, but this discussion has also begun.
After all of these great conversations, I finished my trip with a seat on a plane next to Barbara Haselbach, head of the Orff Schulwerk Forum in Salzburg, and professor at the Orff Institute! It was an exciting conversation! Barbara shared with me how thrilled she was by the energy and enthusiasm of American Orff Schulwerk teachers, and the strengths that she saw in our association. She then encouraged me to come visit the Orff Institute in Salzburg. We discussed many differences between European and American systems, private and public schools, and of course, our favorite parts of the conference. I told her my favorite was Sofia Lopez-Ibor, one of my mentors during my AOSA apprenticeship, and a student of Barbara’s.
Today it was back to reality, but with a renewed sense of purpose. I started the day by guiding my middle school choir to add creative body percussion to the simple Christmas tune we were working on, and it was fun!