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American Orff-Schulwerk Association Founding Members
Featured Founder Biography by Mark Francis*
Elizabeth Nichols' encounter with Orff Schulwerk offered her an avenue for personal and professional development at a crucial time in her life. Nichols stated in 1994 that "It continues to be an integral part of my life today and a source of lasting friendships.". In 1962, Elizabeth was introduced to the Orff approach by her friend, Barbara Grenoble. Shortly after, Nichols attended summer workshops at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. There, Elizabeth met co-founder Isabel McNeil Carley and studied under Lotte Flach from the Orff Institute in Salzburg. After Ball State, Nichols returned to her home state of Colorado where she established a complete Orff program at the Colorado Academy for Boys in Denver. In 1966, Elizabeth was off to study at the Orff Institute. En route, she visited the Studio 49 factory in Munich, Germany. Upon her return to the United States in 1967, Nichols took a position as education consultant with MMB Music which held the American franchise for selling Studio 49 Orff instruments. MMB was owned by AOSA co-founder Norman Goldberg and his business partner, Ted Mix.
Also during the summer of 1967, Elizabeth Nichols accepted a position at Ball State University (BSU) where co-founder Arnold Burkhart had also been hired. Nichols states, "This was a step into the college mainstream of music education and placed me, inadvertently, in the right place at the right time." With the founding of the American Orff-Schulwerk Association, Elizabeth filled the initial term of secretary, and from 1969-1984 served on the editorial board of the Orff Echo with Isabel Carley as editor. Nichols went on to produce the two volume Orff Instrument Source Books for the Silver Burdett Co. as complements to their elementary music series. The Source Books made connections in English-speaking countries including Canada and South Africa, and resulted in Elizabeth being invited to both lecture and conduct workshops in those countries. During her 20-year tenure as associate professor at BSU, Elizabeth also presented Orff workshops in colleges and universities in 27 states as well as at AOSA conferences. Nichols retired from BSU in 1985 and returned to her Kansas roots by moving to Topeka.
Retirement from BSU and AOSA did not slow Elizabeth down. She remained active by creating a performing consort with four other musicians. Her flute and recorder playing led her to discover the Native American flute. Nichols quickly discovered that Carl Orff's concepts based on primitive music transferred readily to the instrument. After a move to Colorado Springs, Elizabeth developed a Native American flute program, the CD Coyote Songs and Tales, and an accompanying Orff guide for activities in art, music, dance and drama. Nichols is now content to polish her writing and poetry, aware of Orff's emphasis on the rhythm and musicality inherent in words. Elizabeth Nichols returned to Kansas once more in 2003, where she continues to focus on the years ahead.
*Mark Francis teaches lower school music and choir at the Bush School in Seattle, Washington. Mark earned his Master of Arts degree with a concentration in Orff Schulwerk from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota and has served on the AOSA History Committee.
Burkart, Arnold E. The American Orff-Schulwerk Association: The First Five Years. Supplement No. 2, American Orff-Schulwerk Association, 1973.
Champion, Michele. "Orff Schulwerk Influences," The Orff Echo 40, no. 1 (fall 2007).
Nichols, Elizabeth. "AOSA Founders and Visionaries – Part Two," The Orff Echo 26, no. 2 (winter 1994). Osterby, Patricia. Orff Schulwerk in North America, 1955-1969. Ed.D. diss., University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, 1988.
Our mission is: to demonstrate the value of Orff Schulwerk and promote its widespread use; to support the professional development of our members; and to inspire and advocate for the creative potential of all learners.