Arvida Steen's Contributions to Orff Schulwerk Curriculum Planning and Lesson Design in the US

July 21, 2011 / By: Sara J. Heimsoth

The purpose of this study was to investigate Arvida Steen’s background and expertise in Orff Schulwerk curriculum development and to document her influence on the dissemination and practice of Orff Schulwerk in the United States. Steen first learned of Orff Schulwerk in the 1960s when new instructional strategies for elementary music education were being researched and her involvement soon heightened her interest in curriculum development.  Through a chance meeting with Jane Frazee, Orff Schulwerk educator and founder of Graduate Programs in Music Education at The University of St. Thomas, Steen pursued further studies in Orff Schulwerk and eventually began influencing the development of Orff Schulwerk curriculum for teachers in the United States by leading Orff Schulwerk teacher training courses and presenting at local and national workshops.  Steen has earned respect as a music educator, a national clinician, an instructor of Orff Schulwerk teacher training courses, and a dedicated mentor.

This study includes the following areas of Steen’s life and work:  her musical training as a child; her undergraduate and graduate work; her foundational teaching experiences; her teaching career at The Blake School; her development of the Orff Schulwerk Curriculum Development course at The University of St. Thomas; and a summary of her contributions to Orff Schulwerk in the United States.  The study is based on interviews with Arvida Steen, personal documents, published sources, and interviews conducted with her friends and colleagues.

The resulting data of the study suggest that Steen’s role in the practice of Orff Schulwerk in the United States and her expertise in curriculum development can be attributed to her experiences with curriculum development in the Ann Arbor public schools, her role in the development of the Orff Curriculum Development Course at The University of St. Thomas, her publication of Exploring Orff and through her commitment to mentoring music educators.  Steen’s dedication to bringing the Orff Schulwerk philosophy into American practice has influenced Orff Schulwerk curriculum design in music classrooms throughout the United States.