This project questions whether it is possible to successfully combine Orff Schulwerk with Mary Helen Richards’s Education Through Music (ETM), an American adaptation of the Kodály approach. My plan was to orchestrate ETM songs with Orff accompaniments and to test the orchestrations and corresponding lesson plans as the completed project.
Preliminary work began in June of 1992 with student volunteers from the extended day program in the school in which I teach. The volunteers ranged in age from first grade to fifth grade and usually numbered ten or eleven children at each experimental session.
At each session, we played a specific ETM game and discussed at which grade level it would be the most appropriate. After learning the ostinato patterns for the Orff instruments and adding them to the song, the students offered feedback as to difficulty or confusion experienced during the performance.
Discussions with the students affirmed my expectations regarding interest level of the games and ability level of the instrumental patterns, but I was not prepared for the challenges in my attempts to combine them. There are many ETM songs best suited for young children that do not lend themselves easily to orchestrations that are playable by young children. Many of my arrangements were abandoned because I could not find a solution to the parallel movement that is to be avoided in Orff settings. What was originally intended as a large packet of arrangements and lessons (and what I had envisioned as the total project) became instead one chapter of this paper.
After researching the respective backgrounds of Carl Orff and Mary Helen Richards, and after comparing techniques and educational premises of Orff Schulwerk and Education Through Music, I had a sudden revelation: The combination of the two can be successful, and is desirable, but I had been going about it backwards! Rather than trying to orchestrate ETM songs in Orff settings, perhaps I should have been using Orff materials and applying ETM techniques to them.
Orff Schulwerk and Education Through Music: A Compatible Combination? I think so. But a combination that should perhaps be approached from a different perspective.