The Orff Approach to Music

The Orff Approach to Music: Introducing Our New Music Hire, Lilianna Parker


We are excited to share that our newly hired music department faculty member, Lilianna Parker, will be taking our commitment to the Orff Approach to the next level. Lilianna has been teaching music for 20 years, and using the Orff Approach with music students for 10 years. Thanks to generous “Fund A Need” donation, the School is purchasing a swathe of xylophones, ukuleles, and rhythm instruments to support Lilianna’s program as she broadens the scope of what students are learning in music class.

The Orff style of teaching is a play-based, fun, and collaborative way of working with students that makes music-making accessible to everyone regardless of musical background or ability. It was developed by the German composer Carl Orff and his colleague Gunild in the 1920’s. This child-centered approach to music education combines movement, music, and creativity. In the Orff approach, every individual is considered inherently musical. Through the lessons, children develop confidence in making music, improvising, and expression.

When Lilianna came to Mount Tamalpais School during her interviews and taught third and eighth grade students, it was immediately clear that she had captivated and engaged them. The Orff approach emphasizes the experience of making music through creativity and expression, rather than flawlessly playing a Bach prelude, for example. The opportunity for exploration and play allows students to learn and understand music from an instinctual and emotional level, rather than a potentially stressful one focused on the end-product. As we continue to emphasize the “creative and process-driven” elements of our program, we are looking forward to Lilianna joining our faculty. We sat down and talked with her to learn a bit more about her background and teaching style.

Q: What’s your background? What led you to teaching music?

LP: Ever since I was in middle school, I knew that I wanted to teach music. At that time, I thought that I would teach high school band. Although I never ended up teaching at the high school level, I have been teaching music for 20 years in grades K-8.

Q: When and why did you adopt the Orff Approach?

LP: Cutbacks to music education during the recession brought me to a new school that sent me to an Orff training. That was the start of a brand new exciting world for me and for my teaching. I fell in love with the process immediately and took many other trainings after the first one.

Q: How is it different than other styles of teaching music, such as the Suzuki method?


LP: The Suzuki method is an ear training method in which students listen to pieces and learn to play them by ear. Students learn each note exactly as the composer created it. While there is some aspect of ear training in Orff and many of the traditional skills are still taught such as vocal quality, reading music, and chord structure, it is primarily focused on being improvisational. Students make music as a class, learn to accompany themselves on xylophones and other instruments, and re-invent the songs with both music and movement to make the song unique for each class. The approach invites creativity. 

Q: What are you most excited about with your new role at MTS?

LP: I’m most excited about working in such a wonderful community. I have enjoyed all of my initial experiences with both staff and students. Everyone has been so welcoming and enthusiastic. I look forward to developing these relationships. I am also looking forward to developing my skills in teaching Orff and to building a comprehensive music program.

Q: What is something students and parents might not know about you?

LP: In my personal life, I am a wife to an amazing husband, Anthony, who is a guitar teacher. We are raising our two sons, a 14 year old, and a baby who will be one in July. We love to go hiking, make music together, and visit hot springs.