Celebrating Anniversaries – AOSA’s and Isabel McNeill Carley’s

Fifty and One Hundred

In 2018 we celebrate fifty years of the American Orff-Schulwerk Association (AOSA), as well as a hundred years since the birth of Isabel McNeill Carley, one of the founders of the AOSA and a respected leader in American music education. In recognition of this happy coincidence, we’d like to share “On Changing Your Life,” a key chapter from IMC’s book, Making It Up As You Go: Selected Essays (Brasstown Press). In it, Carley recalls her first encounters with Schulwerk co-founder and composer, Gunild Keetman. They both attended the first North American Orff gathering, in Toronto, in 1962. Read all about it:

Isabel McNeill Carley Meets Gunild Keetman

I shall never forget my first encounter with Gunild Keetman. It was in Toronto in the summer of 1962, the evening before the first Orff Conference and courses in North America. Both of us had gone to the University of Toronto campus to get the lay of the land and to check out the building where we would be meeting the next morning. She walked slightly ahead of me. I was too shy to speak out, yet we were very much aware of each other as we continued our explorations.

Earlier, I’d seen several provocative articles about the “Orff Approach” in professional magazines. Two German friends in Chicago had shown me the first two volumes of the German edition of Musik für Kinder and also let me doodle on the alto xylophone and metallophone they’d brought back from abroad. With no notion of how to proceed further, I was ready and waiting when the Toronto conclave was announced. Immediately, I decided to go. I was attracted to the course by the opportunity to find out about the whole approach directly from Orff and his colleagues, since what little I’d seen was definitely not self-explanatory. Also the emphasis on ensemble in the Orff Approach from the beginning seemed like sound psychology, to me, since it’s always more fun making music with other people than doing it alone.

To Toronto!

I rode up to Toronto from Indianapolis with Candace Ramsay, who was then teaching Music Education at Ball State in Muncie, Indiana. At my next encounter with Keetman at the conference, I somehow had the temerity to give her a copy of my just-issued first book of piano pieces for children, Eleven Miniatures. The next day, she stopped me in the hall to say that she and Dr. Orff thought my pieces ideal for children!

The conference proved extraordinarily stimulating. Standout events were Professor Keller’s classes in arranging and composition in the Orff style, with repertoire from Volumes II, III, and IV. Keller gave us advanced students a taste of repertoire and techniques well beyond the introductory level, so we were able to get a wider view of the whole approach. I remember writing my first Orff arrangement, a setting of Richard Chase’s version of Cock Robin, and reading through and analyzing pieces from my brand-new Orff-Schulwerk books.

The Recorder Ensemble sessions with Arnie Grayson, Mimi Samuelson, Isabel Shack, and a good bass player from Montreal were outstanding. I’d never encountered really good players before, so it was a singular treat. I was also quite taken with Dr. Orff’s lecture-demonstration. He included recorded examples of Orff-Schulwerk repertoire by Margaret Murray’s children in England, using examples of body percussion, speech play, songs and dances from the first three volumes – the first opportunity to hear Orff repertoire actually performed by children. (Later there were demonstrations by Lois Birkenshaw’s students and others as well.) Dr. Walter’s stimulating lecture about the background and importance of the Orff Approach was later reprinted in Orff Re-Echoes I, a valuable resource.

Johnston: The Pentatonic Is More than a “Gapped Major” Scale

Dr. Richard Johnston’s stunning lecture-demonstration used many of our North American limited-range folk songs and rhymes as convincing examples of what could be brought into the Orff Approach. (He contrasted this to what he referred to as the “gapped major” scale as used in Volume I.) Johnston’s sessions underlined the need to study, analyze and collect relevant folk material from our own traditions – which I started to do as soon as I got home, building an appropriate pentatonic repertoire for my own classes. (Let me suggest that you do likewise, or at least order Louise Bradford’s wonderful collection of American pentatonic songs entitled Sing It Yourself as an inexhaustible resource.) Orff and Keetman did set us a bad example, by inventing all the pentatonic songs in Volume I, but they had good reason, since there is no tradition of pentatonic song in Western Europe (except in Scotland and Ireland). And Orff was a great composer, as most of us are not.

In Gunild Keetman’s general session she suddenly asked for volunteers to improvise on the recorder. No one responded for what seemed a long time. Then my friend Candace whispered, “Let’s do it,” and before I knew what was happening, there we were up on the stage in front of this huge crowd. Keetman asked us to improvise to the C-F tetrachord, without any accompaniment at all. We obliged in Question-and-Answer form, ending on F, and the crowd applauded our temerity. Keetman said quietly that she’d hoped we would use D as the tonal center. So at my first brush with this great teacher, I learned that the obvious is only the beginning.

Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman, Live and in Person

The final session of the conference was the most memorable of all. Carl Orff read aloud his folk play Astutuli to an audience of about three hundred American and Canadian music teachers. Few understood German – let alone a medieval Bavarian dialect – but all enjoyed it enormously because of the magical use of his speaking voice. He assumed different roles, playing with the “tune” and tempo of each word. Dr. Orff’s presentation hit me as a revelation of the possibilities of musical speech, bringing to vivid life the inner meaning of language.

At the end, Keetman gave the whole audience an unforgettable experience. She led the entire group from all over North America in a C-Pentatonic vocal improvisation, while she played recorder above us. Like me, these were people – kindergarten teachers, classroom teachers, a few full-time mothers, music teacher specialists – who had been waiting for an opportunity to find out about the Orff Approach. We came from elementary schools, colleges, graduate schools. Keetman gave us no rules or talk of form, of solo and group, of question-and-answer, except we were to stay in the pentatonic. With that the hall burst into song, following Keetman’s gestures tentatively at first, then with growing delight and confidence.

Imagine, making music together with no notes to decode, no instructions, nothing to distract and hamper us. Just our ears and our voices – our instruments – and her beat to guide us. For me, that was the decisive moment. I knew that this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. To make music that involved the play of language, the beauty and accessibility of the ensemble of instruments, and that elusive element I’d already been pursuing in my own teaching – Improvisation.

So I’ve been at it ever since.

In 1963, IMC attended the Orff Institut in Salzburg, and in 1964 became the first American honors graduate of the new program. Learn more about the history of the Orff Schulwerk in North America in her collection of essays.

From Making It Up As You Go: Selected Essays by Isabel McNeill Carley
Copyright © Brasstown Press, 2011-2015. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.


Launching Our First Ebook!

Brasstown Press is delighted to announce the official launch of our first ebook, a second collection of Isabel McNeill Carley’s essays, Taking The Orff Approach To Heart: Essays & Articles from a Pioneer of Orff in America. It’s now available from the usual suspects: Amazon, Apple iTunes, Kobo, BookBaby, and your other favorites.

Cover of the ebook
Taking The Orff Approach To Heart: Essays & Articles from a Pioneer of Orff in America

This compendium by North American Orff educator Isabel McNeill Carley, contains 29 original essays and articles – even a read-aloud children’s story.

It is a companion book to Making It Up As You Go – Selected Essays – Writing about Music, Improvisation, and Teaching, Brasstown Press 2011, which presented additional essays and articles.

Carley writes with skill and humor on topics from theory to practice, integrating music, speech, movement, and improvisation.

Also included are extensive reference materials:

  • Introductory headnotes for each article
  • A Foreword by Karen Stafford
  • An Editor’s Introduction by Anne M Carley
  • A Biographical Note about the author
  • Informative essays on Carl Orff and the Orff Schulwerk, developed by Orff and his colleague Gunild Keetman
  • A short essay about the significance of the pentatonic scale in Orff education
  • Diagrams of the pentatonic scales and modes in C, F, and G
  • A glossary
  • Biographical notes on names cited
  • Published resources and references
  • A selected bibliography of works by the author, and information on her other recent publications.
Isabel McNeill Carley
Author Isabel McNeill Carley

Some materials have never before been published; others are repurposed with permission. Dip into this book for inspiration, or read it cover to cover to immerse in the world of elemental music education for all ages.

This most recent collection by Isabel McNeill Carley even includes a children’s story to be read aloud!

See the other titles available from the Brasstown Press Catalog.

Simpler Ordering! Direct from Brasstown Press

Direct from Brasstown Press

Good news – starting this summer, ordering from us got simpler. Now you can order the nine print books in our catalog direct from Brasstown Press.

We now offer sales via PayPal, shipped to you from BookLogix / Apex. No PayPal account is required. Use your credit card on their secure site, or your PayPal account if you prefer.

Rest assured, your payment information is not shared with Brasstown Press. It stays private and secure with PayPal.

Visit the Catalog pages to try it out! Order direct from Brasstown Press. Follow the simple steps and get your books delivered to your door.

IMC’s Five Little Books

The Orff Essentials Collection

(Of course, especially for those in education, you can still go through the usual channels – we continue to work with our valued partners, the music education distributors you know and love.)

Coming Soon!

Taking The Orff Approach To Heart

Essays & Articles from a Pioneer of Orff in America

Cover of the ebook
Taking The Orff Approach To Heart by Isabel McNeill Carley

Coming Soon: Brasstown Press is excited to announce this new ebook. A collection of essays and other written materials from Isabel McNeill Carley, it will be available in EPUB (Nook, iBooks, most other readers), and MOBI (Kindle) formats.

Stay tuned for details about the release date.

Now Launched! IMC’s Five Little Books

Teachers and students wanting more materials for practice and music making will be glad to know that Brasstown Press has launched new editions of Isabel McNeill Carley’s My Song Primer, My Recorder Primer and My Recorder Reader, Books 1, 2 and 3. These are short, accessible books with expertly chosen traditional and original songs to sing, play and enjoy.

Nicknamed IMC’s Five Little Books, this reissue of five short books of repertoire for beginning students was overdue!

“This collection is a welcome addition to teachers’ and levels course instructors’ resource list.” – Catherine West, in Ostinato (Orff Canada).

5LBs covers front 750pw 131001

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Book Reviews! Orff Essentials Collection

We’re excited about these new book reviews! Take a look for yourself.

Just in – glowing reviews of our recent crop of publications, from Catherine West in Ostinato (Orff Canada) and Leslie Timmons in American Recorder. Can you tell we’re happy?

Links to the full book reviews of the Orff Essentials Collection appear below these excerpts.

Making It Up As You Go book cover

Making It Up As You Go

This collection of twenty-one essays from the pen of one of our most thoughtful pioneers is a landmark publication. … a collection to savour, to dip into and read in bits and pieces, or from cover to cover. It clarifies important, perhaps sometimes overlooked, understandings from the dawn of the development of Orff pedagogy and inspires belief in the model, and its ongoing relevance.

Catherine West, Ostinato.

Read Entire Review here.

RIT One front350wRecorder and Improvisation Technique 2Recorder and Improvisation Technique 3

Recorder Improvisation and Technique

“Long-awaited new editions of invaluable material for music educators who teach recorder. …They provide the framework for a curriculum designed to develop comprehensive musicianship.”

Leslie Timmons, American Recorder.

Read Entire Review here.

West Music Q&A about Orff Essentials Collection

Anne Carley wrote an article for West Music about the four books in the Orff Essentials Collection. She discusses how to teach from the RIT books, and answers a lot of questions about what the books cover and how they fit in the curriculum. She also provides background about Isabel Carley, and tells the story of how the books came to be. Here are a few excerpts – Anne Carley’s entire Q&A article on West Music’s website is linked here.

What’s in the Essays Book? • Making It Up As You Go – Selected Essays: Writing about Music, Improvisation, and Teaching includes new versions of familiar titles known to many readers of The Orff Echo and the two Orff Re-Echoes volumes, and an important article on hand drum technique first published in Orff Canada’s Ostinato.
Significantly, nearly half the essays are new work, previously unpublished, from Carley’s handwritten manuscripts, typescripts and computer files. Grouped into three sections, Origins, Practicum, and Exhortations, the book provides a wealth of information and opinion from the life of a smart, dedicated, Orff teacher.
Who Was IMC? • As the first American honors graduate of the Orff-Institut in Salzburg (1964), a co-founder of the AOSA (1968), and editor of The Orff Echo for its first fifteen years, Isabel Carley was one of those first-generation North American pioneers who established the Orff approach on this continent.
She taught preschool and school-age children, as well as adults. She wrote, edited and composed extensively, and was an active member of the AOSA. She performed in and led ensembles for early and world music. She taught at Orff certification courses, presented at AOSA, MENC and other conferences, and always advocated for student-centered, creative education. She retired from teaching in 2004, after 40 years in Orff-Schulwerk.
What was Isabel Carley’s vision for the RIT books? • While still in Salzburg, she identified the need for a more integrated approach to using the recorder as an essential part of the learning experience in the Orff classroom. She produced the first editions of the RIT books thereafter, for use in her classes at Barbara Grenoble’s University of Denver Orff certification courses in the 1970’s.
“The emphasis is on playing with the materials of music, on developing musical ideas, just as a composer does. In this way, music comes alive as an immediate and stimulating activity for children. Their participation and their own ideas are being explored and developed. That is why it’s so important to include real choices for the children – and for the teacher, too.” – IMC

Read more here. Enjoy!

Complete Orff Essentials Collection available now!


The Complete Orff Essentials Collection is available now!

Four book covers
IMC Orff Essentials Collection

Recorder Improvisation And Technique books two and three will be published this month, joining Book One, which appeared in June. These fresh new uniform editions of the classic three-book series are completely redesigned, with added reference materials, while retaining the content that has kept them in such high regard.

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