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News Highlights

A Salzburg Sampler Debriefed

After a year in Salzburg, James Jackson came back to teaching with the need to share. Bringing us back as teachers in September to the experience of being a student is always so valuable as we begin the year, and this workshop was just that.


Finding the space for improvisation within the classroom gives back the fun to the students, laying the groundwork for their interest and involvement. Building community and inclusion is so important and giving children in music class a chance to find their place.

One way James took this further was by asking us to reflect regularly in between activities. Reflection has to be taught, giving kids a chance to develop their vocabulary and ability to believe in their creative input. This is especially important in BC where our new curriculum requires us to incorporate this in our teaching.

Working from individual to partner to group work was a conscious choice of James to demonstrate the perspective shift that happens when you change how students have to respond to music activities. The importance of this is echoed in the Orff mantra pointed out by James, “first the voice, then the body and finally the instrument”.

The afternoon took us to the instruments, where we explored some different ways to open up instrumentation to improvisation through the pentatonic scale and easy visuals to simplify student playing. Again, taking a simple poem and letting us develop and play with composition activities. Handing over the arranging of a song to the group provided the proof that we can easily create our student performances from their own creative work.

In James’s year in Salzburg, he noted the focus on teachers as artists with teaching as the medium. With this mindset, we can teach the kids that same approach and allow them to find their artistic expression through improvised interaction, helping them to find their own entry point. Constantly returning to this idea of the seed being simple gives the teacher and students that artistic fuel to boundless creativity.


Orff Level 1 Graduates

Congratulations to all of the graduates of this year's Level I Orff Teacher's Training Courses. It was another memorable summer full of inspiring students. Best wishes to all of you!! Our scholarship recipient for Level One, Julia Walmsley, wrote this fabulous piece about experience with the Orff process this August:

My time in Orff level 1 at Vancouver Community College

Orff Schulwerk has always been important to me. My time in an Orff program during my elementary school years left a positive impact on me that carried forward into middle school, high school and eventually through two university music programs. It wasn’t just the experience of playing music that drew me in, it was the experience of living in the music. I remember exploring music in a way that I didn’t get to in my private lessons on the weekends. I remember using the music as a tool to explore and react to sound. I remember working with my classmates to develop beautiful pieces with the simplest of forms. I remember working hard towards the development of a winter or spring concert and finally the thrill of stepping on the stage and being part of something bigger than just me. I never wanted that to end.

Those music classes inspired something in me, something I work to improve everyday. Now that I am finally able to lead my own students on that path I wanted to have the knowledge of my elementary music teachers, so I could inspire young people as I was inspired so many years ago. Taking the Orff training program just made sense.

We began each morning with warm up games, something to get us in the bright and cheery mood you really must be in to work with young people. Sometimes it was a clapping game, sometimes a hello song from somewhere around the world, sometimes a beautiful round that you weren’t expecting from the simple way it sounded at first. Then we moved to exploring form, or timbre or using poetry and setting it to music. We experienced so many approaches to music that would have never  occurred to me, and yet worked so seamlessly, from words, to rhythm to melody to arrangement. Our movement classes helped us explore our bodies and understand the connection that movement and music has always had. We used ideas from poetry, nature, play and the elements to propel our creativity, and from that we were able to create several outstanding pieces as a group.

We worked on recorder and learned fantastic classroom management techniques. I feel that this was equally as important as all of the material we focused on, considering that a recorder class with children can surely get out of hand without these important management tools. After recorder class we moved to more basic Orff lessons, using techniques we had learned early in the morning to continue the development of beautiful arrangements. I have to pause here and just say how absolutely astounded I was with the musicality of my peers, the way they were able to take the concepts they learned and arrange them into beautiful pieces in such a short time. Not only that, but having to do this with the cooperation of several people at a time and create one cohesive final product, that job truly takes very patient and driven individuals. So a big thank you to all of those wonderful people I got to spend my two weeks with. I would also like to acknowledge the wonderful guest teachers we had for our course, Carrie Taylor speaking about choral directing, Karen Epp on recorder, and Emma, Susie’s assistant.

And on behalf of our class, I want to give a special thank you to Pam Hetrick and Susie Green for their knowledge, guidance and patience, to the BC Orff chapter for supporting the course, Vancouver Community College for offering the course, and to St. John’s Music for providing their beautiful instruments. It was a wonderful learning experience that I will continue to take so much away from. I look forward to continuing my levels in years to come.




President's Message Fall 2017

September has arrived and so has a new school year for all working teachers in B.C. I am gearing up, as most of you are, to greet my students again for a new school year.  I am steeling myself for the challenges of this coming year and the intense energy that the job of a music teacher entails. There are few positions in the school that need to be so “on” as we do all day.

I hope everyone had a restful summer, but also one of learning and discovery.  I had the joy of teaching summer school to some very energetic children and having both the challenge of keeping up with them energetically, and the joy of seeing them through some great learning moments.

I also finished the third course of my Masters of Arts Education program through SFU.  It was an embodiment course and it was full of discovery and joy.

Then my daughter and I spent August having fun in Vancouver and in other parts of B.C. camping and playing and only one can in the summer.  I spent time with my sister and her children and visited all of my daughter’s grandparents too.  It is so nice to have a chunk of time off every summer to play and connect with people in real ways.

So now I feel refreshed and invigorated.  I feel joy and I feel grounded in my family and in my body.

I had the opportunity to visit the Orff Levels students at VCC in August as well. It was so great to see so many faces experiencing an Orff course for the first time. The absolute engagement that they showed is what your students feel when they experience an Orff lesson through you. It is so important to get them moving and creating and exploring music in this authentic and embodied way.  In my embodiment course, I really felt Carl Orff applauding all of the arts teachers for learning and teaching the way he always preached – through a full body experience! I always know I am doing the right thing with my Orff training. It just feels right.

So look for Orff opportunities coming up during this school year. Our job is draining, but when you go to a workshop, you get a boost of energy from playing music and from connecting with your colleagues who know your job as only another music teacher can. You get practical ideas for lessons and units that you can implement right away. You expand your own learning that you can pass on to your students. And you feel that embodied joy of being and doing music for yourself. An important part of a musician’s life that is often ignored when you are teaching all day. In the Orff workshops, you are the student and you get to create, experience and play. A great way to let go and have fun for a day!

We have a workshop coming right away on September 23rd with James Jackson from Nova Scotia. He is the First Vice President of Carl Orff Canada and Nova Scotia’s Levels Instructor. He just finished studying in Salzburg and is going to share his year’s worth of learning at the Orff Institute with us!

On November 24th, we will run a Children’s Day. This workshop is free for members! Myself, Dawn Haylett and Curtis Matheson will bring a story to life through movement, instruments and voice. We will teach the component parts to real grade 4 and 5 students while our members observe our teaching. Then the children will perform what they learned at the end of the day for their parents. This is a practical workshop to watch the Orff process used with a group of children and to see strategies of classroom management at work in real life.

Pam Hetrick, our local Level One Instructor, and Sarah Wilner from Washington, will open our ears, hearts and minds with their Balinese workshop on January 20th.  I am particularily looking forward to their lesson on shadow puppet theatre. Teaching music from other cultures is so important. Our students get stuck in their North American pop music point of view. We are usually their only influence to explore music from other cultures and eras. This is an important part of our job, and Pam and Sarah will show us how to interest our students in another culture’s music with the grace they bring to their teaching every day.

In April the next National Conference is in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The conference is a fabulous way to network with music teachers from all over Canada. It also will have the most amazing workshops and a banquet and celebrations with Orff music teachers. I do hope we get a good turn out of music teachers from B.C. Look into funding through your district to see if you can go. We need to show Canada that we have strong music programs too!

So, in planning your upcoming school year, try not to forget about yourself and your own learning. Your professional development will see you through your career, hopefully in positive ways. Just keep the Orff courses, conferences and workshops in mind. They have been the most useful professional development experiences I have ever experienced, and I know they will be for you as well. Carl Orff will be pleased if we all have our own embodied musical experiences this year as well as providing them for our students!

Also, look for our table at BCMEA in October!

Happy Fall semester!

Yours musically,

Sonja Karlson

BC Orff Chapter President


Keith Terry Workshop Highlights

Many BC Orff teachers first encounter Keith Terry’s body music during their Level I training with Pam Hetrick. I did, and I loved his Rhythm Block approach to teaching rhythm, and have used it with my students for several years.

So I was stoked to hear that Keith Terry would be coming to BC and giving a workshop for our Orff chapter – a chance to study with the source!

On a beautiful Saturday in April a number of us gathered in New Westminster to spend the day using our bodies and voices to make music. Keith’s workshop began with a survey of different kinds of body percussion and body music from cultures around the world. The hambone and juba patterns from African-American culture, kecak chanting from Bali, and palmas clapping from Spain were some of the highlights from the morning.

Keith taught us how to do the clapping trick where you change pitches using just the shape of your mouth. I’d always assumed it was something I couldn’t do, but in one sentence Keith explained the necessary body mechanics, and opened a new set of sounds I can now make with my body.

After the survey of world traditions, Keith introduced his rhythm blocks to us, a system of numbers from 0-9 that combine to create rhythmic phrases from body percussion. We combined them in a number of ways, and finished this portion of the workshop with a rousing 4-part canon of the American folk song ‘Liza Jane’ accompanied by rhythm blocks. It was a great way to show how we could incorporate rhythm blocks into any 4/4 song to give it some extra life and energy.

Keith then worked us through some challenging polymetrical rhythm canons and exercises that kept us on our toes, both literally and figuratively. He finished by flipping the whole concept of rhythm blocks on its head, and doing them in the opposite order from what we’d been working with throughout the day. This was a good reminder that the concepts that underlie Orff-Schulwerk are dynamic, and the work itself is always evolving, never static. I left feeling excited to bring these ideas back to my students, and began the next school day with a rhythm block – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9!

Curtis Mathewson
Music Educator
Vancouver School Board

President's Message Spring 2017

Spring President’s Message

There is definitely a shift in the air as we transition fully into spring here in B.C. With such a snowy winter behind us, the flowers and trees all in bloom is fresh and exciting. April is a busy time of year for any music teacher with festivals and concerts upon us. We had a workshop in the midst of this busy month, which was actually very well attended for a long weekend in April. Thank you to everyone who came out to experience Keith Terry’s Body Music and brilliance. He is certainly an inspiring percussionist. We will be bringing him back to BC soon.


As we get ready for our end of year performances and transitions we think of our summer plans. I look forward to spending lots of time with my daughter camping, swimming, playing on beaches and exploring our wonderful city and nearby lakes. It is necessary that we spend this time taking a break from the amount of energy we spend with our students and at our jobs. We often take on roles as councilors, nurses, parents, and many more things for so many of our students. Emotionally we need the summer to recover and spend time with our families and on ourselves.

Summer is also a key time to “fill our buckets”. I love this term. It means that we do things that make us emotionally delighted and whole. We do things that challenge our own interests and what we love. I would like everyone to consider taking one of the levels courses this summer. I know that it is daunting to think of spending time in a school environment on the lovely days of summer when you want to be resting. At this point in the year you are looking forward to just having a break. I have spent three summers taking levels courses recently, and I have found it the best way to replenish myself for the next year ahead. It is a time when you can focus on YOU. It is about learning activities, not only that you can take with you into your classroom, but that make you a better musician. The teachers are amazing and inspiring and you come away with an overflowing bucket. After level three, I actually wanted to have one more week with Joe and Susie to learn more! And you don’t have to do as much planning in September; the activities will be at your fingertips.

As the BC Orff Board of Directors is wrapping up another year of workshops, we reflect on our successes and disappointments. Our workshops were very well attended this year and we had great feedback about the clinicians we booked. On the other hand we had to cancel Children’s Day due to lack of students attending. We will be booking clinicians about whom you are excited for our future workshops. We are excited to have the National First Vice President here in September to give a workshop fresh from his year of study at the Orff Institute in Salzburg. And our own level one instructor will be the clinician of our January workshop sharing music from Bali with her collaborator, Sarah Willner.

We will offer Children’s Day again next year, and try to make it work for the children and members. We are discussing many ideas around field trips, Pro-D days or our usual Saturday workshops. If you have any feedback or preferences about how to best make this work, please email me at

I hope all of our lovely members have a great year end, a wonderful summer, and a full bucket with which to return to work in September.

First Nations Songs For the Classroom

As we entered the room on this clear, mild January morning we were welcomed into a circle of seats, creating a warm sense of openness and calm. After acknowledging the peoples on whose traditional territories we were on, Sherryl sang us a welcoming song in which we had to face East, then South, then West and North back to East. The power of Sherryl's high-reaching voice and the drum beating like the heart beat of Mother Nature had us all ready and keen to learn songs from the First Nations, embracing what the songs mean to people of the nations that they come from.

In the morning we were introduced to songs of chant, songs of praise, songs with drums, and songs with Orff instruments. The songs consisted of words the Cree, Blackfoot and Dene languages as well as English and French. Sherryl taught us all the songs with superb effectiveness through the oral tradition of echoing, welcoming us to record the songs on our devices to accompany the transcriptions included in the handouts, giving us all the freedom to take the songs away and be able to pass them on through our own teachings. Find a link to the lesson plan for "Music Alive" here.

The afternoon's activities varied wonderfully, keeping us all fully engaged right to the end. A song about water, with ocean drums and people moving with blue scarves to resemble ocean waves, was one of those unique moments in which we were all involved and looked around after with expressions to say "wasn't that beautiful?" Versions of familiar songs such as 'Old MacDonald' incorporating Metis words got us all thinking about how our teachings of First Nations songs can reach out across to Language Arts and other curricula. A song-based stick passing game at the end of the day rounded things off perfectly, making us all feel ready to take what we'd learned today back to our classrooms and provide all our grade levels with joyful musical learning. Find a link to the travelling stick game here.

Many people came today with the key motivation of discovering Aboriginal content that we can use in our classrooms and meet some of the demands of our new provincial curriculum. However, we all came away with way more than just that. Besides being enlightened from delving into Aboriginal perspectives and learning the songs, language and culture of many First Nations, we have furthered our abilities as practicing Orff teachers and discovered ways, as encouraged by our school system, to connect with other subject curricula, but with an Aboriginal Education focus. I cannot wait for it all to be passed onto our students!

Adrian Clift
Music Specialist
Seaforth Elementary - Burnaby

President's Message Winter 2017


This school year is a big change for me both personally and professionally. My daughter has begun attending Kindergarten in September, and I began a Master’s program through SFU. We joke about how we are both starting school at the same time.

It is a new and interesting perspective to have a daughter in school. I am glad for this other layer of perspective about the school experience. I am learning so much this year and really developing a different attitude about my job.

I have completed one course through the Masters of Arts Education program. The course was Aesthetics in Arts Education. This course was a breath of fresh air for me professionally. I was encouraged to live more aesthetically and practice my own art. These are two things that I have felt I have not had time for. By being accountable to a professor and a grade, I took the time to breathe, explore, notice and enjoy life in a more aesthetic way. I also practice the piano more. I practice it for me, not just the next choir song. And I have revived photography as a visual art outlet. I would encourage our members to take time as well. If we are not enjoying and practicing one or many art forms, how can we preach to our students to enjoy and practice their art? If we don’t have an aesthetic outlook, how can our students appreciate various forms of art and the world they see around them?

I have also been lucky to enjoy working part-time this year in order to have time to study and develop professionally. Although I miss the students at my school and the daily connection with my colleagues, I am noticing that the time, along with encouragement to be a more aesthetic person, has let me relax more this year, and gain a perspective on my profession and energy. I am trying to keep the big picture of what I do with my students more in the forefront of my planning. I want my students to enjoy music. I want them to participate in any art form that speaks to them personally. I want to make connections between the various art forms. I want them to leave their elementary career with an artistic outlet of some form, and the confidence to know they can be a creative person. This is my goal. Maybe taking a wider perspective, which our new curriculum also encourages us to do, will give you the freedom to let your students explore more in various art forms in your room too. Although we teach “music” as a subject, we teach children in the long run.

I hope all of our members will be able to attend the January workshop. It promises to be extremely practical. Sherryl Sewepagaham will be presenting First Nations songs that we can use in our classrooms. I have always used songs that she has presented at past workshops. Please encourage all of your music colleagues to attend this workshop  


on January 21st for connections to our new curriculum.

At our AGM, we welcomed three new members to our Board of Directors, Adrian Clift, Krista Dugdale and Christy Wu. We sadly saw our co-President, Vanessa Fer, move away, but she is happy to be close to family and teaching in Winnipeg, Manitoba, her home town.

Our Vice President, Amy Johnston, has given birth to a new little girl, Annika on November 16th. She is stepping away from the Board for the remainder of the school year’s workshops. We all wish her new family well and congratulate Amy and Vince on their new addition.

Children’s Day is in February and we are trying a new type of day this year. We have planned to hold it on a Pro-D day. Faith Veikle, Jillian Christmas and I have been planning a day that will integrate many art forms. I think it will be really enjoyable. If you are not familiar with spoken word and slam poetry, you will learn something about it on Children’s Day!

I am enjoying my new role as a workshop clinician with planning Children’s Day, and I also taught 3 “Orff Bootcamp” sessions at U.B.C. for the music cohort there. Our new “Orff Bootcamp” sessions are well received, and give a good introduction to the world of teaching in the Orff Process. If you feel your district or program needs a course like this to introduce new teachers or teachers new to elementary music to the Orff Process, please contact me at, and I will be happy to set up a clinician for your area.

I hope all of our members had a glorious winter season, and will have a 2017 that will be memorable. I hope that many of you will take a little more time to be aesthetic and practicing artists. I know you love your art – that is why you teach children about it. Love it and live it.

Sonja Karlson

B.C. Orff Chapter President

Susie Green - BC Orff Chapter Honorary Life Member

We are very pleased to award Susie Green an Honorary Life Membership to the BC Orff Chapter. Susie has been instrumental to the growth and development of the BC Orff Chapter for decades. An internationally recognized choreographer and master teacher in Dance and Movement Education , Susie has brought immense skill and experience to the Chapter and all of her students. Susie finds unique ways to reach each of her students and reveal the dancer in each of us. Opening worlds of creativity and expression to thousands of Orff members in BC and around the world, Susie is truly a special and gifted and teacher.

Congratulations Susie! We are incredibly grateful to you for your enormous contribution to our Chapter. May you continue to dance with us for a long time to come!

2016 Graduates of Level I and II

Congratulations to all of the graduates of this year's Level I and Level II Orff Teacher's Training Courses. It was another memorable summer full of inspiring students. Best wishes to all of you!!