Coming up on July 10th is Carl Orff’s birthday; he would have been 120 years old! In celebration of his life, I wanted to highlight the great work he did and how it pertains to the challenges of today! I did a little digging and found a speech he made at the opening of the Orff Institute in Salzburg on October 25, 1963. It was published by B. Schotts and the translation was done by Margaret Murray. It is a great read: http://www.vosa.org/index.php/about-orff/10-orff-schulwerk-past-and-future! Here is a quote that I felt embodied his philosophy and the spirit of his work:

“I encouraged the activation of the students by the playing of their own music, that is, through improvisation and composing it themselves. I therefore did not want to train them on highly developed art instruments, but rather on instruments that were preferably rhythmic, comparatively easy to learn, primitive and unsophisticated.

My idea was to take my students so far that they could improvise their own music (however unassuming) and their own accompaniments to movement. The art of creating music for this ensemble came directly from playing the instruments themselves. It was therefore important to acquire a well-developed technique of improvisation, and the exercises for developing this technique should above all lead the students to a spontaneous, personal, musical expression.”

I love this!! Give kids the raw materials and celebrate what they create! In an age of tests and so called accountability, this is a wonderful reminder that children are not without knowledge; they certainly are not clean slates, as John Locke once thought. Rather, it is our job as educators to help children realize their fullest potential! They are capable of so much more than our current school systems allow!

So how can we do this today with the great demands that are placed upon us with virtually no resources?

Allow children to create! Any time there is an opportunity for kids to add or change a given rhythm, vocalization, song or movement, go for it! Encourage students to offer thoughts and ideas on what they are learning. Because time is always an issue, it may only start out as taking one student’s idea and embedding it in one small part of your lesson. This can happen on the spot or in a future class for one that needs a bit more planning. Either way, this experience will be invaluable to your students. It’s also the kind of thing that always helps with behavior! Kids are more likely to cooperate if they know they matter.

Here are just a couple of ideas, but presently I am working on an updated set of Note Knacks lessons that will inspire lots of new ideas and tricks to get creating in your classroom…and the best part is you can do it in 20 minutes or less! Look for a preview lesson next week!


  • Encyclopedia Britannica
  • NPR
  • Vosa.org