Karl Orff: A Musical Humanist
Composer and educator Karl Orff (1985 – 1980) originated Orff-Schulwerk, an approach to music education that has a transformative and humanizing effect on students. In this presentation, the connections between Orff-Schulwerk and humanism will be explored. Social factors associated with music have a fundamental importance in making and finding meaning in musical experiences. Humanism supports the importance of social factors in music education because there is no absolute determinism in matters of human behavior; people freely choose the behaviors that are the most rewarding and personally satisfying. The goal of education is to help each person reach his or her own potential; in other words, all people have the natural potential to learn for themselves. Since its inception in 1949, Orff-Schulwerk has provided active and experiential models in music education while emphasizing the elements of music such as rhythm, melody, and form. Orff-Schluwerk strives to encourage joyous music-making through imitation, exploration, improvisation and creation of music. Evidence of the Schulwerk's success includes its use in countries worldwide as well as extensions in other musical idioms. As an alternative to authoritative and prescribed approaches to music education, Orff-Schulwerk provides for teacher-directed yet mutually collaborative interactions between the instructor and the students, based on freedom of ideas and celebrating creative expressions. The Orff-Schulwerk process highlights the need for cooperation and mutual respect as well as leadership and creative problem solving. By understanding Orff-Schulwerk in terms of humanism, researchers may better comprehend and value its humanizing influence on students. By including benefits to students beyond musical growth, educators may expand the possibilities for music and music education in the lives of their students.
Keywords: Music, Education, Humanism
Dr. Daniel C. Johnson
Assistant Professor and Assistant Chair, Department of Music, University of North Carolina, Wilmington