Before There Was AOSA
PART II: The Orff Movement during the 1950s and ‘60s

While America was experiencing transformational social, political, and educational changes during the middle decades of the 20th century, Music Educators National Conference (now renamed National Association for Music Education) was engaged in efforts to develop cultural relations and facilitate cultural exchanges internationally. MENC conference programs from the mid-century indicate sessions, panel discussions, and performances of interest in fostering international cooperation. Following World War II, the United Nations was established along with its social and cultural agency, the United Nations Economic, Social, and Cultural Council. UNESCO’s Arts and Letters Section included music within its scope. In 1949, UNESCO established the International Music Council with assistance from MENC, whose Executive Secretary, Vanett Lawler, was instrumental in setting up the First International Conference on Music Education held in Brussels in 1953 at which the International Society for Music Education was established. Serving with Lawler on the planning committee was Arnold Walter, Director of the Music Faculty at the University of Toronto (later renamed the Royal Conservatory of Music) and first president of ISME. Hans Bergese presented a demonstration of Orff Schulwerk at the Brussels conference.

Walter was born in Austria and had become familiar with Carl Orff’s work at the Guntherschule before fleeing the Nazi regime in 1933. While planning for the Brussels conference, Walter met with Orff on two occasions and expressed an interest in introducing the Schulwerk to music education in North America. His plan included making an adaptation of Orff’s published materials, training a teacher to use and demonstrate the approach with children, and establishing a training program for teachers at the Royal Conservatory. Doreen Hall was selected to study with Orff and Gunild Keetman in Salzburg in 1954-1955.

American educators and university students were introduced to Orff Schulwerk at ISME conferences held in Europe during the years following 1953 Brussels. They also were learning about Orff Schulwerk through university-sponsored European study tours that included lectures and courses at the Mozarteum. They were being introduced to Orff at MENC conferences and divisional meetings, as well as through journal articles. However, Doreen Hall at the Royal Conservatory presented the first courses offered on the continent—two one-week courses— during the summer of 1957, with attendees mostly from Canada and the United States. The following summer, by invitation of Mary Tolbert, Hall presented a three-week course at The Ohio State University. In 1959, she presented a demonstration with children at the MENC Eastern Division meeting in Buffalo and another in Rochester sponsored by the New York State School Music Association.

In 1960, the International Convention of Community Music Schools was held in Toronto. The program included a demonstration of Orff Schulwerk by Doreen Hall and her students. In attendance was the President of the National Guild of Community Music Schools and Director of the Music Center of the North Shore at Winnetka IL, Herbert Zipper, and two of his colleagues from the center, Grace Nash and Louise Burge. Following this demonstration, Hall was invited to present a one-week course at the center. Among those in attendance and for whom this was their first introduction to the Schulwerk were Jacobeth Postl, Ruth Hamm, and Lillian Yaross.

After nearly a decade of raising awareness and scattering the seeds of Orff Schulwerk in North America, the time seemed right for a full-scale conference. It was held in Toronto during the summer of 1962 with Carl Orff, Gunild Keetman, Wilhelm Keller, Barbara Haselbach and Lotte Flach on the faculty. In addition, Canadians Doreen Hall, Keith Bissell, Hugh Orr and Laughton Bird served on the faculty. There were 167 participants. Among the 54 Americans attending were Grace Nash, Candace Crawford, Ruth Hamm, Jacobeth Postl, Isabel Carley, and Joe Matthesius. The 1963 teachers course included American participants Arnold Burkart, Ruth Hamm, Jacobeth Postl, and Wilma Salzman. Again in 1964, Ruth Hamm, Wilma Salzman and Grace Nash attended. In 1966, introductory and intermediate certificates were offered for the first time. Many of AOSA’s founding members and future leaders attended these courses and met one another for the first time.

The Orff Institute continued to enroll students from America throughout the 1960s, including Candace Crawford, Martha Wampler, Isabel Carley, Wilma Salzman, Brigitta Warner, Jacobeth Postl, Ruth Hamm, Joe Matthesius, and Elizabeth Nichols. Meanwhile, the spread of Orff Schulwerk continued vigorously in the United States. Ball State University began offering a teachers course in 1963 patterned after the Toronto course.

Orff instruments had been exported directly to American schools, but began being distributed by American companies in the 1960s. Norman Goldberg, owner of Baton Music Company in Saint Louis, attended the 1962 MENC convention in Chicago where he saw Doreen Hall present a lecture-demonstration. After his company partnered with Magnamusic, it became the exclusive distributor of Studio 49 instruments in America. Peripole began distributing Sonor instruments.

Significant in the spread of Orff Schulwerk were school projects funded by ESEA Title III grants. The first countywide project devoted to Orff Schulwerk curriculum began in 1965 at Madera CA. Arnold Burkart was music supervisor and wrote the proposal for the three-year project. Grace Nash was on the team of educators who developed and implemented the curriculum. Another project was implemented by the Bellflower Unified Schools in CA and was titled Orff-Schulwerk: Design for Creativity. Martha Wampler served as project director and team-taught with Gertrud Orff and Margit Cronmuller. The project began in 1966 and included international symposia held at the conclusion of each year. Jacques Schneider proposed a project for Orff Schulwerk training and development in Elk Grove IL beginning in 1967. Memphis City Schools proposed a project for training teachers and implementing Orff curriculum beginning in 1968. Other ESEA Orff Schulwerk projects were implemented in the schools at Columbia TN and Cleveland OH.

The May 1967 symposium at Bellflower attracted over 200 participants, eager to gather with other like-minded educators and learn about this project. There was no doubt that Orff Schulwerk had become a movement in America. Before the weeklong event concluded, there was discussion and enthusiasm for forming an Orff Schulwerk association. However, Wampler was reluctant to initiate such an endeavor until the three-year Bellflower project was over. Burkart left Madera CA to join the faculty at Ball State University. When he sent his December 1967 letter of invitation to gather and consider a Midwest convocation, did anyone anticipate forming an association? Their discussion was described as “intense and searching” by Elizabeth Nichols, who also identified Norm Goldberg as the person who ultimately challenged the convocation steering committee to take action and establish AOSA.

Read Part 1 of Before There Was AOSA: Socio-economic, Political and Educational Climate