orff for adults

Orff for Adults: Swing-En V

Orff for Adults: Swing-EnV 

*The official title of our class, as listed in the OASIS catalog, is “Swing Ensemble for Pitched Percussion.” 

My abbreviation for us is Swing-Ena good name for these episodes.

A New Beginning

The cancellation of classes in the fall of 2000 proved a blessing.  Time was needed to REsuscitate, REthink and REvise Orff for Adults.

But help was at hand!  The symposium “Music as Lifelong Learning” preceded that year’s AOSA conference.  Karl T. Bruhn, the keynote speaker, became a personal guru.

Mr. Bruhn, recognized worldwide as the “Father of Music-Making and Wellness,” spoke directly to me when he said:

  • 86% of adult education students take classes for personal and social reasons.
  • Adults stop taking classes when they feel that the class expects more of them than they are willing to give.

In fact, Mr. Bruhn set the tone for a new approach. ADULTS were all-important! Everything revolved around adults, their desires, wants and needs. First, appropriate music was chosen with senior adults in mind. Then, Orff arrangements were created for class participants wielding the mallets. The purpose of Orff for Adults became clear and easily stated:

  • The goal of all classes is to make music together successfully and joyfully.

Isn’t that just what Orff and Keetman did in “Music for Children?” A conversation with Norm Goldberg provided another idea.  Norm thought In the Mood would be a favorite with seniors. He was right!

With revisions about content and teaching strategies in place, how could enrollment and socialization issues be resolved? Diane Quitmeyer, Manager of the OASIS Center for Music, was uniquely qualified for the task. Diane is a classically-trained musician, an MTBC (Board-Certified Music Therapist), and has an MBA. Besides that, Diane is my friend and a collaborator in this adventure. The business side of her determined that we needed a new class title and description for the catalog. We had tried several – Orff for Adults, Music Circle, Orff – a Music and Movement Experience for Adults, Learning Music in a New Way. All of these titles had led us to the cancellation of classes due to lack of enrollment. I mentioned Norm Goldberg’s suggestion, and our new title and class description became:


If you love music and would like to join others in an ensemble,
you’ll enjoy this class.  Learn to play tunes like In the Mood,
 Feelin’ Groovy and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy on
special instruments that require no previous experience.
10 one-hour sessions,
but participants enroll for 5 weeks at a time.

Diane had solved the marketing problem by making the class sound fun and interesting and by asking members to commit themselves to only five weeks instead of ten. Of course, we hoped that they would re-up.

What about socializing? Diane figured out that one, too. She proposed starting classes with a Wellness Tip. Each tip was a handout and topics ranged from Correct Breathing and Positive Thinking, Chair Dancing, Spirituality, to Healthy Romance. Before each class, we read the information that Diane gathered and discussed the suggestions she included. It was magic! Gradually, strangers became acquaintances, friends, then extended family – as well as a musical ensemble. Several of those first “In the Mood-ers” attend classes today. But we didn’t know that when we were discussing the new program over lunch one afternoon in 2001. We just knew that we now had a framework to build on. And, thanks to Diane, I felt confident.

Revisit Mary Lou’s previous Swing-En posts,
which chronicle her journey of joyous music making with senior adults.

orff for adults

Mary Lou Richardson

Mary Lou Richardson taught elemental music and movement, K-6, for thirty-three years. She served as president of St. Louis AOSA, completed level and master Orff classes and presented at both the 1978 and 2012 St. Louis AOSA conferences, as well as in Cincinnati in 2001. In the fall of 1999 she became teacher/facilitator of an Orff class for senior adults, which she continues to this day. The past years have been filled with pits and pratfalls as well as laughter and joyous music-making.

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