orff for adults

Orff for Adults: Swing-En II



(The official title of our class, as listed in the OASIS catalog, is “Swing Ensemble for Pitched Percussion.”  My abbreviation for us is Swing-En – a good name for these episodes.)

 D-Day arrived!  A demonstration class for the residents of the retirement community where our sessions are held.  What we hoped to show was how senior adults can learn to make music together and not be overwhelmed by the challenge.

The audience was bewildered to find strange objects lying on their seats – drums, claves, maracas, finger cymbals, triangles and tambourines.  They learned to play a simple two-bar rhythm pattern, divided into groups of skins/woods/metals and accompanied Glenn Miller in the A-section of “In the Mood.”  The B-section required a new division of shakers and boomers.  Voila!  We could play the entire piece along with Glenn.  One woman danced in the aisles as the rest of us applauded.

The Orff instruments replaced non-pitched instruments.  The familiar rhythm pattern resonated in the bass part.  The harmony was an off-beat version of that same meme.  The melody evolved from the three mallet chordal harmony.  But you knew that would happen, didn’t you?   That’s Orff process in action.  Now for the magic, and the heresy, of the ensemble experience . . . each member chooses and plays the part at his/her comfort level!  The music was beautiful; the audience appreciated it; the players felt happy and successful.

Three Cs, conversation, caffeine, and calories, ended the day’s presentation.  Audience members congratulated one another on their stellar performance with Glenn Miller.  One participant thanked us for her very first music lesson.  Class members basked in the afterglow.  This is my fourteenth year teaching senior adults.  The adventure is a story worth the read.  Stay tuned!


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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