Introduction of the Orff Method in North America
On the initiative of Arnold Walter, the Orff approach was introduced formally to North America by Doreen Hall (after special studies in Europe 1954-5) in a demonstration in the summer of 1955 at the RCMT. A course prepared by Hall was introduced in 1956 at the University of Toronto, and a summer course was begun in 1957 at the RCMT. Among the participants was Sister Marcelle Corneille, who was to apply the basic principles at the kindergarten and nursery school levels at the Institut pédagogique de Montréal until 1966. At that time the Orff program had to meet the requirements of the Quebec Ministry of Education, and at the École normale de musique Miriam Samuelson began teaching a course intended to train specialized teachers. As head of the École normale, Sister Corneille was able to invite teachers from Europe and Canada for master classes. An International Orff-Schulwerk Conference (in which Orff participated) was held at the University of Toronto in July 1962, at which time the summer course was greatly expanded with the encouragement of Richard Johnston, who became director of the Summer School in the fall of 1962. The RCMT courses were lengthened in 1966 from two weeks to three and were revised to accommodate three levels of instruction leading to a teacher's certificate. They established the RCMT as the major centre for the dissemination of the Orff-Schulwerk method in North America.
Spread of the Orff Method in Canada
Keith Bissell pioneered the use of the Orff method in the Scarborough schools in 1958, and by 1962 the other major Metropolitan Toronto school systems had adopted it. By the mid-1960s Orff programs were also offered in Montreal by the Hungarian-born pianist-composer Gabor Bartha, who opened a private studio in 1964. In 1965 the CBC broadcast the three-part radio series 'Living Through Music,' featuring children from Scarborough trained by Joan Sumberland. The series won an Ohio State Award in 1966 for educational broadcasting. A graduate from the École normale, the harpist Donna Hossack taught the Orff approach privately 1966-71 in Montreal and St-Lambert, and introduced it to adult classes in Vancouver when she moved there in 1971. In 1972 Carole Irvine-Kurz began giving Orff summer classes to 4 to 12-year-old children for CAMMAC. Others involved in the spread of the Orff approach (by then also known as Music for Children) included Trudi Le Caine, wife of Hugh Le Caine and stepdaughter of Arnold Walter, in Ottawa; Lois Birkenshaw-Fleming, author of Music for Fun, Music for Learning (Toronto 1977, 1982), in Toronto; Sandra Davies at the University of British Columbia; Jean Woodrow in Edmonton; Morna-June Morrow, Edna (Little) Knock, and Beth Douglas in Winnipeg; Nancy Vogan at Mount Allison University; Mario Duschenes in Montreal; Doreen H. Coultas at Memorial University, and Valda Kemp in Halifax and at Dalhousie University. In 1976 when the École normale became part of the UQAM the Orff program gradually expanded.
Carl Orff Canada
Music for Children/Carl Orff Canada/Musique pour enfants, a national association made up of provincial chapters, was formed in 1974. Doreen Hall was the first president, followed in 1977 by Keith Bissell. The first provincial chapter was organized in British Columbia in 1974 and others followed. By 1985 ten local or provincial chapters had been formed, including the Quebec chapter founded in 1980. A twice-yearly bulletin originally named Music for Children/Carl Orff Canada/Musique pour enfants, but renamed Ostinato in 1982, has promoted the association's aims, and by 2004, 18 conferences had been held, eg, in Toronto, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Vancouver, Halifax, Edmonton, Montreal, and Calgary.
Canadian Teacher-Training Centres
Courses were integrated into the B MUS degree program at UQAM in 1985. By 1990 UQAM was the only university in Quebec to offer a course (45 hours long) in Orff pedagogy. Guest teachers included Jos Wuytack from Belgium, and Anne-Marie Grosser and Jeanne Mulciolli from France. By 2000, teacher-training courses were being offered at the University of Victoria, the University of British Columbia, the University of Alberta in Edmonton, the Calgary chapter of Carl Orff Canada, the University of Lethbridge, the University of Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation, the University of Regina, the University of Manitoba School of Music, the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, the University of Ottawa, the Ottawa chapter of Carl Orff Canada, the University of Quebec at Montreal, and Mount Saint Vincent University.
The Orff Approach in Elementary Schools
In the 1990s, the reinstatement of music as a core subject in many public school curricula across Canada forced all elementary teachers to be prepared to teach music as well as all the other subjects. Carl Orff Canada endorsed courses in many of its centres to prepare teachers (many of whom have little or no music background) with the fundamentals to teach sight-reading, rhythm awareness, and a basic knowledge of music terminology.
Assessment and Projections for the Future
Though Music for Children, and variations of this method, was used in an increasing number of Canadian schools in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, there remained skeptics who criticized the relative neglect of early training in reading and technical skills and the absence of a clearcut teaching methodology. Because of these shortcomings, the Orff program's popularity with teachers was limited, and there were those who saw its value as a supplement rather than as a basic study course. However, the influence of Orff and Music for Children in 20th-century music education was firmly established, and the popularity of this method continued to grow in the early 21st century with more than 1000 music educators teaching Music for Children across Canada in 2004. The Orff Institute provides courses for teachers and promotes research into further applications of the method, including its use in music therapy. As well as providing courses in the private sector, by 2004, Carl Orff Canada was reaching out to public elementary-school teachers to provide them with basic music knowledge to enable them to teach music as a vital part of their overall curriculum.
Author Keith Bissell, Doreen Hall, Emily-Jane Orford
NL of C. Arnold Walter-Carl Orff correspondence (1953-70)
Walter, Arnold. 'Elementary music education: the European approach,' CMJ, vol 2, Spring 1958
Bissell, Keith. 'Carl Orff's Music for Children: a reply to the critics,' Recorder, vol 6, Oct 1963
Johnston, Richard. 'The word for the method is zest,' Varsity Graduate, Christmas 1963
Clark, Eileen. 'A report from the Orff Institute,' Recorder, vol 7, May-Jun 1965
Walter, Arnold. 'Orff Schulwerk in American education,' Recorder, vol 17, Dec 1974, Mar 1975
Hall, Doreen. 'Music for Children's past, present, future,' Music for Children/Carl Orff Canada/Musique pour enfants, 4, Feb 1976
Bissell, Keith. 'Orff, song and tradition,' ibid, 6, Jun 1977
Hossack, Donna. 'Canadian folk music and materials in Orff-Schulwerk,' BC Music Educator, vol 22, Summer 1979
Otto, Donna, ed. 'Orff-Schulwerk and the BC elementary fine arts curriculum,' ibid, vol 29, Summer 1986
Morrow, Morna-June. 'Thirty years of the Schulwerk in Canada,' Ostinato, 32, Jan 1986
See also Writings for Doreen Hall.
Music for Children (NFB 1958)
Links to Other Sites
Carl Orff Canada
Learn about Orff music education programs for young people across Canada. Also features news about teacher training programs, conferences, and workshops.
See an illustrated biographical sketch of educator and violinist Doreen Hall. From Library and Archives Canada.