I never could have anticipated the ways in which my training and work with Orff Schulwerk would impact my day-to-day life after retirement.

Having recently retired and nearly immediately taken on the responsibility of caring for my elderly mother, I have become aware of how fortunate I am to be able to draw upon a lifetime of involvement with Orff Schulwerk to support situations beyond the classroom. My musical abilities and problem solving skills have been applied in new ways that helped me to cope and find balance during a rather challenging period.

Within two months of my retirement in 2013, I became the primary caregiver for my mother. It was especially helpful that I had a great deal of experience in creative problem solving – both solo and with others – because this was part of my daily routine. At times I was working on my own to manage a schedule that included doctors, nurses, dentists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, housekeepers, medications, activities of daily living, and day programs. At other times I was collaborating with my sister or a care manager to make decisions about keeping my mother comfortable and safe. Critical thinking and negotiating to find resolutions was key to keeping us all functioning well.

While managing people and situations was a large part of my daily life, I was also very conscious of finding ways to take care of myself. Besides exercise, I found that bringing music back into my life for my own enjoyment was essential. I played recorder and joined a community chorus. The weekly rehearsal schedule of singing beautiful music under a very fine director/educator was tremendously therapeutic. After years of being the teacher, it was wonderful simply to be in the chorus doing what someone else was asking.

A third point is that an advantage of being part of the Orff Schulwerk community is having a connection to many friends. These friends from around the world were enormously supportive and caring. Attending an AOSA conference and being away from the daily routine at home was restorative tonic for my heart and soul. Sharing music and conversation was a great source of comfort.

My mother passed away about 18 months after I took on the caregiving responsibilities. She was 90. I feel fortunate that I had the time and the ability to assist her. She retained her lovely personality until the end. I do believe that my background and experiences in Orff Schulwerk provided me with many of the skills I needed in order to take care of my mother and myself.

Retirement is a great thing, and being able to make music for the joy of it is glorious. I continue to play recorder – even more now – and to sing in the community chorus. I always knew that I would be doing these things during my senior years. However, I hadn’t thought about how other aspects of Orff Schulwerk might be playing important roles in caregiving.

The things we acquire through Orff Schulwerk can certainly be experienced and valued lifelong.

Editor’s Note: Carolee Stewart was honored this year with an Achievement Award from the International Orff Schulwerk Forum in Salzburg, Austria.