The Effect of the “ORFF Schulwerk“ on El Sistema

Music as a Social Project / The Miracle of Music (discussion)

August 8, 2001
4:00 pm – 6:00 pm Music as a Social Project / The Miracle of Music (discussion)
El Sistema and similar examples in Turkey*
Panelists: Jose Antonio Abreu, Yeliz Yalın Baki (Music for Peace), Cihat Aşkın (CAKA), Süher Pekinel (Orff-Schulwerk Project)
Moderator: Feyzi Erçin (Chief Editor, Andante Magazine)
Location: The Marmara Taksim

Süher Pekinel’s speech

I would like to thank revolutionary visionary Maestro Abreu, who worked very hard and intensely to create one of the socially and musically most influential institutions of our time. I would also like to thank the Simon Bolivar Orchestra and its phenomenal conductor, Gustavo Dudamel. I extend my gratitude as well to Mr. Bülent Eczacıbaşı, chairman of board of the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), Mr. Görgün Taner and Ms. Yeşim Gürer, who brought them to Turkey. Thanks also to everyone at IKSV and the sponsors who wholeheartedly supported this event.

I would also like to say that I am honored to be on this panel with Cihat Aşkın and Yeliz Yalın during this discussion.

As a musician, I would like to begin by expressing my deep gratitude to Maestro Antonio Abreu, who initiated fundamental changes in Venezuela’s social structure through his revolutionary musical education, and has even caused Europe to review its musical education. I have the same great admiration for Maestro Dudamel. At the age of 28 he became the director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, while continuing his work for the Simon Bolivar Orchestra. At the same time, he brought the revolutionary El Sistema to street children living in the most extreme social levels of Los Angeles, implementing it there with support from the Philharmonic. Dudamel’s advantage is that when he trains and educates musicians from the same social climate, he speaks their language. This is wonderful proof that this kind of system can be implemented all over the world and that the world needs it.

I would like to now discuss our Project for Improving Music Education in Anatolia with the ORFF System and touch on various details about striking similarities between it and El Sistema.

Because time is short, I will speak about brief topics.

What is the ORFF Schulwerk system and why does Turkey need it?

The respected educator and composer Carl Orff developed his own system in the 1920s based on his belief in the importance of teaching children, founding his first music school where he brought in experts from theatre and dance.
ORFF Schulwerk is also known as the ‘’Carl ORFF Approach”. ORFF education is not limited to just Austria and Germany, but is a system that has been used for years in many countries, from Australia to Japan, from Finland to Africa. Finland ranks first in all international evaluations and tests, and authorities there state that this success is due to the fact that children there are educated with the ORFF system. This fact is known around the world.

The training encourages social interaction with games that use contemporary songs, poems, rhythms, dance and body percussion that are unique to each country, starting with children at age three or four. Very simple instruments are chosen for maximum interaction in order to encourage the child’s imagination and creativity, thus fostering rhythm, listening to each other, respect and discipline. As the pace of the rhythms in the games increase, logical reaction and creativity speeds up and analytical thinking comes into play.

Emphasis is made on bolstering self-confidence and on sharing, and it is important that families are part of the process. All families are periodically invited to the schools, given information and made part of the whole process. This is where social change begins. In addition to the children, the families become educated as well.

A parallel view and style of application exists in El Sistema. In fact, with El Sistema, children aged two or three begin going to music centers called NUCLEO six days a week for three to four hours per day. Their first lessons are on rhythm, where they use the body as a mode of expression, just like with ORFF.

I personally think that El Sistema was influenced by the ORFF method.

With El Sistema, children start learning instruments at age five, starting with percussion, and beginning at age seven they start playing wind and string instruments. Each child also joins a choir, where they learn by having fun moving together, just like in the ORFF system. The teachers are former El Sistema students.

It is at this point that Maestro Abreu says that he intends to change the system putting unique emphasis on training the teachers.
El Sistema is also similar to the ORFF system on this point.

Having former students teach the younger ones is great; this is important and the way it should be. For Turkey, gathering children together in small groups is very important for bringing street children into the system in a healthy way. After a period of time, this education can easily be integrated into normal education. In order to do this, in my opinion, financial and moral support from the local government must come into play.

The conditions in Turkey are different from Venezuela because it is a larger country with a larger economy. In today’s environment, Turkey’s job is to emphasize the primary role of art in its cultural dimension based on a cultural identity that suits its status in the international sphere, and to improve its status. In this regard, it is very important to bring the academic aspects of the educational system up to European Standards. Unfortunately, the system started in Ankara by Muzaffer Akan in 1956 was not effective because of a lack of infrastructure. This is because in order for the Carl Orff system to continue, it must be integrated into the country’s existing system at the academic level.

What are we doing with ORFF education?

In order to provide the best ORFF training for 30 teachers we selected from nine provinces in Turkey, we are working with Prof. Ulrike Jungmair, the former director of the ORFF institute at Salzburg Mozarteum, and we are seeing the striking importance of the practical and scientific approach we have used in seminars that have been held regularly for one year. From the project we previously carried out and the two other projects we are currently executing, we can clearly see that in order to train up children, first the teachers must be trained. We have emphasized this over and over.
We were very pleased to learn that the Ministry of Education (MEB) has taken action to increase the overall level of education of teachers.
The reason that we have presented our project to the Ministry of Education is that the music classes, which in prior years were held in preschools and primary schools, were shelved when teachers from different disciplines began teaching music classes. We have been working hard for years to overcome this major loss.

All of our projects are part of a whole, including the Güher Süher Pekinel Music Department at TEVİTÖL, where low income, highly intelligent children selected from all over Turkey are educated, and Young Musicians on World Stages, which we developed for skilled musicians who will be able to promote Turkey in the world in the future.

What is the main goal of our projects?

It is that all children grow up to be people who can make balanced use of both temporal lobes in their brain, that is, their emotional intelligence and their analytical ability, because they started the right musical education at an early age.
Our goal is to spread this education systematically all over Anatolia, enabling millions of children to benefit from it as an integrated part of the curriculum beginning in preschool. Naturally, some children with superior abilities will be discovered as this project is implemented, and they will begin to be trained at an early age. As a result, some of them will exceed expectations to become world-class musicians, because this potential exists in Turkey today.
Right now, our thirty teachers are reaching about 20,000 children. We will repeat the final education for our pilot program at the end of September. After that, plans are in place to increase music lessons to two hours per week at all schools as part of the MEB curriculum, and they will be graded as are other classes.

In order for teachers to receive this basic training, we have approached three universities that currently implement the system as part of the pilot project, even if only minimally. Prof. Jungmair and trainers from outside Turkey will help us to provide better on-site training to faculty members and to-be music teachers. Teachers who go out from here to other provinces will train other teachers, thus expanding the network. In order to do this, we must greatly improve the quality of the curriculum at the university musical departments, which has been needed for a long time. Classes must be added to the curriculum such as music pedagogy as well as music psychology and sociology.
Our vision is that graduates will return to their former universities when they are not teaching, so that they can continually refresh and deepen their knowledge. This will prove the quality of the system and help teachers to always be creative.
After 90 teachers complete this education at these three universities, we estimate that we will reach 60,000 children by the end of the first year. After five years, the graduates from these three universities alone will be much better equipped and higher quality teachers, able to provide music education to 300,000 students with the ORFF system. The most important factors for fully implementing the system and reaching millions of children in the future will be expanding the number of universities, sending the best trained teachers to these universities and providing support for other academic pedagogical studies at the international level.

We started each of our projects with our own funding. As we have worked on this for the past year, our primary point of focus has been to prove the importance and durability of the project. Later, we started looking for sponsors and the fact that the sponsors we are working with wholeheartedly adopted our project helped it to advance and continues to do so.

Although the financial and moral support from the Ministry of Education is very important to us, we are continuing to make our own financial contributions. We will continue to look for sponsors for this project, because we do not believe that it is correct to expect the government to pay for everything.

In this regard, we think that there are similarities with the El Sistema project, which developed with its own funding in the early years.

Thank you for listening to me.

El Sistema – a film by Paul Smaczny & Maria Stodtmeier