Today was the double session with Wolfgang Hartmann. I have been warming to him the same as I have been warming to Verena - the night Verena was teaching a dance he was misbehaving a little bit. I t made me wonder what the dynamics between these Orff Institut folks might be.
The trick with these European instructors is to turn your American levels filters off and approach their teaching with an open mind. Wolfgang seems to be the philosopher of the core group of teachers. He said to us that instead of teaching students to imitate musicians, we as Orff teachers should strive to bring out their innate musicianship.
This resonated with me when I thought of my years as a private instructor and band teacher. Sometimes I would even go so far as to say “If you do what musicians do nobody will be able to tell the difference.” Ugh! On the other hand the context was my trying to get ten and twelve year olds to sit up, breathe correctly, use good technique, etc., all things that good musicians do anyway, so I’m not going to beat myself up too badly.
Another point he made, related to the first, is that music, especially in the Orff classroom, is a social, collective enterprise. This also resonated with me because of the isolation with which I often work in Vermont. In many respects my leaving the state frequently for training, for example in Kentucky as well as Salzburg, is an attempt to relieve this isolation. I think one reason I am drawn to the Schulwerk is in reaction to the isolation and stress of hours of individual practice on my flute. I prefer to introduce all children to a joyous experience in which they are the creators than to introduce a small minority to to the intensity of the private studio and band/orchestra. Those people can find their way without me!
I was bad and went to lunch with some folks, found something inexpensive. I just didn’t want to sit around eating weird supermarket food when I could be connecting people from all over the world.
After lunch, Gerhard Reiter reviewed the material we had learned over the week. This world drumming thing is new to me, and I hid among the frame drums rather than take on the individual roles with the clave, etc. As a finale we built up a large polymetric drum pattern. We pulled it off just in the nick of time – Gerhard was clearly feeling time pressure to have a grand finale for closure on our 7 ½ hours of work together.
Next Soili delivered one of her elegant lessons. The highlight of the session was when she had us close our eyes, put our hands behind our back, and gave us “a present from the Orff Institut.” It was a balloon. She led us through a sequence of playing with balloons, tapping and tossing them about with sticks and culminated in tapping the balloons to the ostinati in Bolero. I was hard at play, and truly felt like a little kid again. I think it is an important lesson for adults, especially us craggy veteran teachers, to experience again the freshness and intensity of play. If we can’t play ourselves, how can we expect to lead our students to active learning through play?
Next came the second International Night. We listened to song and watched, or participated in dance from eleven more countries. Chris, the Englishman from York who I met the first day, taught us a hilarious penguin song and dance which he is going to email to all of the participants because he was inundated with requests for it. It would be a marvelous complement to the book Mr. Popper’s Penguins.
We saw graceful songs and dances from China, a jump rope song similar to “Teddy Bear” from Korea (there’s one from Finland to; I bet the idea is universal), a wonderful quartet of high school students from Belgium who taught us a wonderful dance in which one progresses around the circle to new partners in clever ways, and a Russian trio, excellent performers, who took several participants on stage and danced with them a marvelously complicated dance with many patterns I recognized from previous folk dance training, including that with Brian Burnett in level 3 and Sarah Richardson in drama. There were others too numerous to mention.