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From Our LS Music Teachers, Aedín Larkin and Sara Kramer

LREI
What is Orff Schulwerk?
“In Orff Schulwerk classrooms, children begin with what they do instinctively: play! Imitation, experimentation, and personal expression occur naturally as students become confident, life-long musicians and creative problem solvers.” - American Orff-Schulwerk Association
 
Orff Schulwerk supports and encourages students to participate, create and discover by using elemental music. Elemental music is constructed from “building blocks” which can be text, simple melodies, and other accessible pieces of material. These elements, when combined, allow children to bring what they know into a much more sophisticated context.
What is our goal as music teachers and how does this connect with the mission of the school?
 
Full participation in a music class requires a balance between independence and interdependence. Students must both perform their part confidently as well as understand the way it fits into the larger work. The process of learning music requires trust and risk taking while reaping the rewards of a joyful, collective experience. As facilitators of this experience, our goal, as teachers, is to start from small pieces that students already know (text, patterns, motives) and guide them through the creative process, becoming increasingly less present.
 
 
What does the Orff Schulwerk process look like across the Lower School?
 
If you were to walk into any music class in the lower school, you should expect to see children at play. It looks different as children develop. For instance, the fours may move like butterflies to wind chime accompaniment, the second graders may choreograph a new step to a folk dance, or the fourth graders may create a rhythmic pattern in an uneven meter on drums. One key characteristic always remains the same throughout: students actively create a musical experience through singing, dancing, and instrumental play.
 
As students move through the Lower School, the content and specifics of each music class evolve and build upon previous classes. The early childhood program is deeply rooted in the imagination. Fours and Fives become the stars of a variety of stories that take them on trains, to the moon and stars, and around the world. With text, images, and stories as our guide, they begin to develop understanding of beat, rhythm, and musical contrasts.
 
First and second graders are now equipped to play simple melodies as part of a larger Orff ensemble and are learning basic musical form through folk dance. Improvisation continues to play an important role throughout the LREI music experience. The community song repertoire grows along with their vocal development and style.
 
Children’s musical growth and development seamlessly continue into Third Grade with the inclusion of the recorder program, which completes the Orff ensemble. As their vocal skills advance, third and fourth graders also have the opportunity to join the Lower School Chorus. The fourth grade play has become a tradition at LREI and it brings together all the elements of their studies across the curriculum. This play marks the end of their music journey in the Lower School. The fourth grade immigration play is a formal performance that the students have been working towards since their first days in the Fours. While performance is a valuable part of a child’s musical experience, we believe that the learning takes place in the process. Our music shares are a time where you get to catch a glimpse into the music classroom. They are an opportunity for you to share in the experience with your child.
 
“Were all instructors to realize that the quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth something hardly less than a revolution in teaching would be worked.” 
― John Dewey, Democracy and Education
 
Why is the Orff Schulwerk approach essential to a progressive music program?
 
Although we integrate a variety of educational techniques in the Lower School Music program, the Orff Schulwerk approach is at the heart of progressive music instruction. In Orff Schulwerk classes, children think critically to discover musical concepts by imitation, exploration and experimentation, play with music through movement, improvisation, and composition, focus while listening to, interpreting, and performing elemental music, and collaborate and connect with others as they create and perform in ensemble. Orff Schulwerk prepares students to become confident, life-long musicians and creative
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