The Orff Spirit

I recently attended a local chapter workshop where the presenter keep saying that the “Orff spirit” would move us to complete the
activities that were presented to us in a creative way. Very rarely would assignments be given, but rather a simple reminder that this “Orff spirit” would guide us to what instrument we wanted, what movement we chose, what rhythm to play as an improvisation…the examples were endless.

As I was participating in these activities, I couldn’t help but think…what exactly is this “Orff spirit,” and how can we translate this magical experience to our students?

The first place this thought process led me to was my own experiences with Orff-Schulwerk. When I think of my first exposure, I think of a similar local chapter workshop and the 2011 National Conference in Pittsburgh. These are all memories of living and embodying techniques and activities with others like me, knowing that the common bond that brought us together was the work of two great individuals whose legacy has been passed down from generation to generation.

Doug Goodkin reminds us in the most recent issue of The Orff Echo that the workshop experience is key to a true understanding of the Orff approach.

Orff teachers learn the Orff process in the same way their students will learn it. The emotions, conviviality, laughter, and joy of the experience become inextricably tied to the material. Afterwards, when teachers bring the workshop’s songs, dances, and pieces to their classroom’s students, they also bring the pleasure they had in learning. This makes the material come alive differently than if they had learned it from a book, a lecture, or a presentation. (45)

Brigitte Warner identifies a common misconception in her book, Orff-Schulwerk: Applications for the Classroom, when she discusses the Music for Children volumes.

In the first place, Orff and Keetman never intended to write a textbook with detailed lesson plans. Such an approach would negate the Orff-Schulwerk philosophy, which, after all, is based on the inherent creativity not only of the child but of the teacher as well. (6)

To me, these conclusions are the what of the “Orff spirit.” But the question remains: What are we doing to awaken this spirit in our own teaching and in our students’ experiences? The written word is just the tip of the iceberg! We must learn from each other in person…a concept that seems to be fading away in the age of increasing technological advances.

Discover the spirit inside of you…the possibilities are endless!



Goodkin, D. (2013, Fall). You just have to be there: The workshop as the heart of Orff training. The Orff echo, 46(1), 44-46.

Warner, B. (1991). Orff, his work, his philosophy. In B. Warner (Author), Orff-Schulwerk: Applications for the classroom (pp. 1-10).
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Justin Caithaml

Justin Caithaml teaches 7-12 Choral Music at Midview Local Schools in Lorain County, Ohio. He completed his Orff-Schulwerk Certification at Baldwin Wallace University, Villanova University, and University of the Arts. Caithaml recently graduated Magna Cum Laude from Baldwin Wallace University, and serves as the Chief Operating Officer of SMART360, an organization dedicated to strengthening elementary students' reading fluency, social skills, and cultural diversity through a creative musical experience. He is a member of the National Association for Music Education, the American Orff-Schulwerk Association, and the American Choral Directors Association.

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  1. Jon P Reidinger on February 27, 2019 at 7:40 am

    What, when and where can I participate in the Orff Spirit technique(s)? I am an excelsior individual who is a pianist and am now in student pedagodgy with an interest in local grade school music teaching. I am 45 years old.

    All best,
    Jon Reidinger B.S.
    University of South Florida

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