The Importance of “Orff-Schulwerk” for Musical Social-Integrative Pedagogy and Music Therapy – Karin Schumacher (English translation: Gloria Litwin)

Ειδικό Τεύχος 5 (2) 2013 – Article

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The Importance of “Orff-Schulwerk” for Musical Social-Integrative Pedagogy and Music Therapy

Karin Schumacher

English translation: Gloria Litwin

(pp. 113-118)


Which features of Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman’s ideas are relevant for work in the community and therapy? A child who is mentally or physically handicapped, emotionally or sensorially disabled or on the autistic spectrum, is never just only that. The characteristics of a person that are not expressed in these terms, however, are precisely the ones that make musical communication and thus a connection with so-called ‘normal’ people possible. A historical review will demonstrate the sources from which the adaptation of the Schulwerk for work with handicapped and disturbed children and young people was made possible and meaningful. A brief section will define the fields of “Music Education”, “Music in Special Needs and Community” and “Music Therapy” in order to distinguish them and highlight the contents they have in common.

The author uses quotes by Carl Orff in order to document the basis of her ideas for therapeutic work and describes how pedagogues and therapists, from the early sixties until today, have developed them for and together with different groups with special needs:

  • The multi-sensorial approach through speech, free and bound rhythm, movement, singing and playing instruments provides possibilities for spontaneous creative play in a social context, even if one important sensorial area is severely damaged.
  • Every member of an integrative music and movement group is participating actively in a creative process.
  • The instrumentarium allows participants to play together in a spontaneous way.
  • Relationships developed through musical expression and play as an encounter between two people forms the basis for emotional development.
  • Musical reception and expression is independent of intellectual capacity, age and previous musical experience.


elemental music; social-integrative pedagogy; music therapy; differences in methodology


Prof. Dr. Karin Schumacher studied Music Therapy in Vienna and Elemental Music and Dance Education at the Orff Institute in Salzburg. Since 1974 she has worked as a music therapist with psychiatric patients, children with pervasive developmental disorders, especially autism and with handicapped children and teaches music therapy at the University of the Arts in Berlin and at the Music University in Vienna.



Note: This article by Karin Schumacher was originally published in 1999 with the title «Die Bedeutung des Orff-Schulwerkes für die musikalische Sozial- und Integrationspädagogik und die Musiktherapie» in the journal Orff-Schulwerk-Informationen, volume 62 (see: This English translation of the article is published with the kind permission of the author and the publisher. Apart from some copy-editing changes, the text has been attributed faithfully in the English language retaining the terminology used initially by the author.