A Brief History of AOSA
By Michael Chandler
The American Orff-Schulwerk Association (AOSA) was founded in Muncie, Indiana on May 11, 1968. Its formation was the result of ten passionate and dedicated music educators who recognized the value and potential of the Orff Schulwerk music and movement pedagogy developed by Carl Orff (1895-1982) and Gunild Keetman (1904-1990). The AOSA founders acted in hopes of organizing the excitement that was building for this approach, which was spreading across the country, and to promote its implementation in American music education. Known as the Orff Schulwerk Association (OSA) until 1970, AOSA grew from ten founding members to 332 in its first year. Seven chartered local chapters expanded through the years to more than 90 today, with current membership at approximately 4,500.
In 1976, the Gunild Keetman Assistance Fund was established to provide scholarships to members for professional development or special creative projects that are associated with Orff Schulwerk. The Harriet Evans Shields Scholarship, renamed the Shields-Gillespie Scholarship Fund in 1991, was established to provide financial assistance for teacher education, instruments, or other special creative projects associated with Orff Schulwerk that benefit the music education of children. AOSA published the first guidelines for Orff Schulwerk teacher education in the U.S. in 1976 and, beginning in 1982, began publishing an approved list of certification courses across the country that met these guidelines. Today, AOSA-approved teacher education courses can be found throughout the United States.
The Orff Echo, AOSA’s quarterly publication, first appeared in November 1968 as a four-page bulletin. Since that time, it has evolved to its current journal format, which includes scholarly research articles. The association’s quarterly newsletter, Reverberations, was first published in 1995, and initially, was included as an insert to The Orff Echo. In 2001, Reverberations became a separate publication that was mailed to members’ homes. As of spring, 2011 Reverberations became an online newsletter.
AOSA has maintained a Web site since 1995 (www.aosa.org), where members can now find information on Orff Schulwerk and music education advocacy, apply for scholarships and grants, register for the national conference, connect with a local chapter, look for approved teacher education courses, and make donations. The Isabel McNeill Carley Library, established in 1985 and since 2002 located at the Eastman School of Music’s Sibley Library, holds research materials, letters, and the archives of AOSA.
The AOSA Professional Development Conference, known also as the “national conference,” occurs every November in a different U.S. city. The conference was first held in 1969 at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, with approximately 170 participants from 21 states and Canada. Today’s conferences bring together nearly 1,500 teachers from across the U.S. and from many countries around the world. Since 1989, AOSA has been affiliated with MENC: the National Association for Music Education, and, in addition, has been an affiliate of the Orff-Schulwerk Forum in Salzburg, Austria since 1990.
Cole, Judith. “Milestones in the History of Orff Schulwerk in the United States.”
The Orff Echo, Vol. XLI, No. 4 (Summer 2009), pp. 27-30.