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Celebrating 50 Years of OSANSW, Australia.

Updated: Apr 2, 2023

Article Written by Peta Harper on behalf of OSANSW

Edited by Bethany Elsworth

Down in the Southern Hemisphere there has been a team of people so passionate and dedicated to Elemental Music and Movement Education that in 2022 they celebrated their 50th anniversary as an Orff-Schulwerk association. This group is known as the New South Wales Orff-Schulwerk Association (OSANSW) in Australia. Let us tell you about their story.

The founders of the association were Diana Humphries and Lorna Parker. They had experienced Orff-Schulwerk in the late 1960s through a range of settings and people. Both were teaching at a school for children with physical disabilities and they began a music program in 1970 that focused on singing, movement and playing.

Teachers started coming to watch demonstration lessons with children with physical disabilities. The word spread that the Orff-Schulwerk approach could be easily implemented by a non-music specialist in diverse environments. As the demand for these observation lessons became too great, Diana and Lorna decided to invite teachers from special schools to come for a weekend of workshops. These ran three times a year and began to include teachers from mainstream schools.

The Queensland association, which is 1000km away from New South Wales, was flourishing through the work of Keith Smith. It was clear that there was a need to start a NSW Association. Courses and monthly workshops included a week-long course held at Armidale with Keith Smith, Bernie Houseman, Jennie Beale, Richard Gill and Christoph Maubach. These were exciting initiatives that supported the knowledge and understanding of the Orff-Schulwerk from those who had been trained at the Orff Institute in Salzburg, Austria.

The OSANSW became a constituted organisation in 1972 and has existed for 50 years without a break in pursuing its mission. Over the years there have been many memorable moments which are shared regularly. These include the 100 year celebration of the Schulwerk in 1995. Lola Harding, then in her 80s, recalled her experience at the Günther School before leading the dance students in a 20 minute Günther School inspired session with hand drums in the dance studio.

Another defining moment was at the 1994 ANCOS conference which was hosted by OSANSW. The conference was held in Sydney during extensive bushfires. Doug Goodkin and Helmi Vent were the main presenters. Margie Moore recalls, “People and equipment had to be very creative to get there as many of the roads were cut off – some came by boat!”

This is an association that overcomes difficult times to ensure that the music continues to grow. The organisation has connected with numerous teachers from around the world and have supported the use of this approach to flourish in their students, from pre-school to university level.

OSANSW has existed for 50 years due to the belief that the philosophy and principles of the Schulwerk are sound educational principals that are appropriate for all ages. It has remained viable because at its core is active learning. This is supported by current research in psychology, neuroscience, and cognitive science.

Many talented Schulwerk practitioners have supported teachers to see the value and importance that music and movement education have in children’s overall development and education. The association continues to connect with what teachers want and need, as well as representing an evolving Orff-Schulwerk practice.

As an organisation, we have a mutual respect for one another, belief in the power of music and movement to evoke change, and to make a better world. Our commitment and passion for the importance of dance and music education for all, combined with a very healthy dose of play and fun, strengthens our association. We are a tribe!

The light of Orff-Schulwerk still burns in every state and territory in Australia, and will hopefully continue for many decades to come.

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