Friday, March 27, 2015

Walk the Talk, Talk the Walk

In my crotchety old age, I’ve earned the right to be grouchy about everything. And I’ve had my share of complaining about certain trends I see in the American Orff movement. But today I appreciated yet again the most simple tenet of an Orff workshop, the expectation that has hardly changed in the 40 plus years I’ve been involved. “In this workshop, you will get up out of your seat and do things. Not listen to the teacher talk about doing them, not think about doing them, not watch other people doing them, not watch Powerpoints of other people doing them, not watch Powerpoints of other people taking i-Pad videos of other people doing them. You yourself will hold hands, will move, will sing, will play, will create, will improvise, will be actively engaged with your whole heart, body and mind. And then we’ll sit down and talk.”

Today I passed a workshop about the importance of children’s play, with people seated at tables looking at a Powerpoint. In my workshop next door, we experienced first-hand the importance of children’s play by playing like children. And that made all the difference in the world. Thanks to a long history of Orff workshops for keeping that intact.

Well, almost.

Fact is, I see more and more Powerpoints at Orff Conferences these days, all notes and texts and instructions displayed on a screen so that participants don’t have to listen as deeply, attend as sharply, observe as carefully the way the teacher carries music in her or his body. And more people sitting with their i-Pads raised so that their machine is experiencing the workshop that they are not. And the first commandment of Orff Schulwerk —“Thou shalt thoroughly experience every minute of music and dance in company with others”— is compromised. The first step of genuine understanding is a physical step: Walk the talk! And jump it and gesture it and sing it and boogie down with it!

On the other side of the equation, sometimes Orff workshops stay too long in the doing without any worthy reflection about how we’re doing things and most importantly, why we’re doing things. For me a good workshop begins by walking the talk and proceeds to talking the walk. What are the big picture values that drove my decisions as to what I did and how I did it and how I developed it? What were the aesthetic criteria, what qualities of human potential was I aiming to release and cultivate, what sure knowledge of children and who they are and how they think and what they need was demonstrated in these choices? And then from there, back to the doing with a deeper understanding and thus, deeper enjoyment. “Do it first” the title of a book I thought about writing and step number 1. Then "discuss it next," then "do it again" to complete the threefold cycle.

My workshops done for the day, I have three choices:

      1)   Think about going into the swimming pool.
      2)   Watch a video of people in swimming pools.
      3)   Jump into the pool.


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