Orff, or Orff-Schulwerk as it is sometimes called, is a creative music making environment that integrates singing, speech, instruments, and movement. Orff-Schulwerk, originating in Germany in the early 1940’s, is the result of the combination of the elemental music style of German composer Carl Orff and the modern dance movement of the first half of the 20th century. Originally conceived with young adults in a dance studio, participants were quick to notice the overall experience strongly resembled the feeling of children at play. What happened next is not surprising. Why not try this new methodology as a means of teaching music to children? Soon the Orff approach covered the globe and is particularly strong in the United States. Using the Orff process, music of many world cultures can be explored and performed, and students learn the power of communal music making. Improvisation and inclusiveness are key attributes of the process as well. Typically, the most visible characteristic of Orff is the use of the specially developed Orff instruments, which are legitimate professional grade instruments designed to be played in ensemble, and provide richness of tone color to the sound of the Orff experience.
An Orff ensemble is a performing group that shows off the results of the Orff process. It is a children’s choir that accompanies itself. Whereas some children’s performing groups are carefully auditioned and elite, this organization takes a different approach. Through a multifaceted music experience, children are liberated and their individual and collective best is shown to be amazing. In my Orff ensemble, all children are gifted and talented.