Orff Schulwerk in Urban Music Classrooms

April 23, 2019 / By: Kristin L. Stitt

The Orff Schulwerk approach integrates a strength-based view of students’ abilities into the processes of exploring, imitating, improvising, and composing music by including students’ musical ideas in the creative process. This positive, collaborative approach to music education contradicts much of the deficit language and implicit biases found in urban education discourse. Schools in large cities often have a high percentage of black and brown students and students who have experienced trauma, and teachers in urban environments benefit from Culturally Responsive Teaching practices and trauma-informed strategies.

Culturally Responsive Teaching gives educators tools to represent the identities and bring out the abilities of their black and brown students, and trauma-informed strategies help students return to a ready-to-learn state when they are under stress. These tools encourage Orff Schulwerk educators to create structure, build strong relationships, and teach social and emotional skills, areas not addressed inherently by the Schulwerk. Culturally Responsive Teaching, trauma-informed strategies, and Orff Schulwerk also have many areas of overlap in the areas of teacher and student roles and dispositions, communal learning, and the role of music. When used intentionally, these commonalities pointing to the potential of the Orff Schulwerk approach to foster healthy, musical students in urban environments.