Skip directly to content

News Highlights

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!!