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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