“The Schulwerk Philosophy”

The following excerpt is a continuation of the article I posted Thursday:


The Schulwerk Philosophy

At the core of Carl Orff’s work is an artistic expression able to speak to children without the loss of musical integrity. Therein lies its great significance, its genius. The name “Schulwerk,” which was coined in 1930, is still a clear, modern, and relevant theorem of music education. The act of making music presupposes that all individuals possess a creative potential that must be accessed and developed. This development serves as the aesthetic framework from which all music learning is constructed.

The Schulwerk must not be seen as a method because there are no fixed, standardized steps prescribed for the curriculum. Discovering a curriculum and adapting it to each respective situation lies within the pedagogical responsibility of the teacher. The interaction between the teacher and his/her students leads to a process that can produce new or individual results every time. The musical works, dances, and songs written by Orff and Keetman must also be seen in this light. They are perfect examples of how personal the creative results can be. These are not musical works to be reproduced note for note in a misunderstood attempt at “faithfulness to the original,” but rather “improvisations fixed according to their nature…a collection of models that aim to lead to the return path back to their source, back to improvisation” (Carl Orff).

The facile and constructivist nature of the Schulwerk continues to thrive in the most varied forms. Spoken verse, movement, and instruments provide the impetus for the construction of new knowledge in the arena of active music creation. In the process of exploration and creation, the learner chooses and permutes the knowledge, constructs hypotheses, makes decisions, and while performing these, relies on cognitive structuring. This cognitive structure caters to the grasping of meaning and organization of the experiences, and enables the learner to go beyond the given information. Thus, the Schulwerk is continually evolving with original pieces created by the learner, and the process is universal. Orff-Schulwerk also plays a critical role today in social development. The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction and collaboration. The Schulwerk fosters a learning environment where the individual competencies must function to support and strengthen that of the ensemble. In this collaborative environment, there is a set of social skills children need in order to be successful, both academically and socially: cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control.

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