Music education in Australia has often been criticized by teachers for relying on other cultures for its inspiration and content. Because authentic folk songs are limited in number and often difficult to sing, Australian music teachers experience difficulties including local material in a music program. However, the identification of Australian children’s folklore in the form of speech rhymes, chants and singing games offers many possibilities for Australian material to be included in a music program. The Orff Schulwerk approach provides opportunities for speech activities and the inclusion of these rhymes makes a music program uniquely Australian.
Three sources assisted in the search for rhymes and chants currently used by children. June Factor from Melbourne University has recently published a number of collections, Hazel Hall’s 1984 doctoral thesis transcribed children’s rhymes and singing games from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, and in February this year I conducted a survey of elementary school children from selected schools in metropolitan Melbourne to ascertain preferred songs and speech rhymes. All sources returned similar results which helps to authenticate the selected rhymes and chants.
Using the speech rhymes and a selection of folk songs, this document presents a music program based on Orff Schulwerk principles. As well as using Australian material, the program is sequential in the development of rhythmic and melodic concepts and instructional in the teaching and application of Orff Schulwerk media, theory and teaching techniques. In accordance with the Orff process, the sequence provides children with music experiences before teaching the concept. They are therefore familiar with the sound before learning about the symbol.
In order to meet a particular need in Australia, the sequence is geared towards children in the middle to upper grades of the elementary schools who, for various reasons, have not experienced regular music lessons. Therefore, the program endeavors to capture and hold the interest and imagination of children who may have lost their initial enthusiasm for music.
In addition to the sequence, I have included a review of the growth and development of Orff Schulwerk in Australia. Much of the material for the review was drawn from an interview with Keith Smith from Queensland who played a founding role in Australia’s Orff movement.