Interview with Griff Gall: insight into Ring, Dance, Play

Interview with Griff Gall

co-author of Ring, Dance, Play - First experiences with Choirchimes and Orff

Ring, Dance, Play is a music education resource born out of a joint collaboration between Malmark, GIA Publications, and Griff Gall and Paul Weller, music educations and Orff Schulwerk specialists.

Malmark: Will you tell us a little bit about the book Ring, Dance, Play and how it came about... how did you and Paul Weller end up writing together?

Griff: Paul and I first taught together as part of a Guild-sponsored event (Handbell Musicians of America) designed to introduce music educators to our instrument. Although we had never met, Executive Director Jennifer Cahourn asked the two of us to teach the elementary portion of the seminar together. Through that collaboration we realized that our philosophy and teaching styles really complemented one another. We continued to collaborate, teaching at guild events and the national Orff Conference. In 2012 we were asked by Malmark if we would be interested in writing a resource for music educators to introduce Choirchimes as an Orff Instrument. The idea of the project had already been floating around in my head for a few years, and this opportunity was the motivation I needed to actually complete the project.

Malmark: The title mentions the Orff approach to music, so is this book only for those teaching in this tradition? And what does that mean for most teachers?

Griff: The book was designed with two target audiences in mind. First, the book was designed for music educators who own Choirchimes and who are looking for ways to incorporate the instruments into their own classroom. Second, we wanted to create a resource for Orff teachers that demonstrated how Choirchimes work beautifully to supplement the traditional Orff instrument collection.

Malmark: When did you begin using Choirchimes in your own classes and what previous experience did you have with the instrument?

Griff: I did not begin ringing handbells or chimes until I was a freshman in college. I was introduced to the instrument by Kathy Shaw, the handbell director at Westminster Choir College. When I began teaching, one of the first instruments I requested was a set of Choirchimes.  I created a traditional chime ensemble, but immediately started to explore ways to use the chimes with my general music classes. Flash forward almost 10 years, after completing my first level of Orff training at Boston University I realized that Choirchimes were in many ways the ideal Orff instrument.

Malmark: What is the advantage of the Choirchime instrument in an elementary classroom?

Griff: Choirchimes offer a tremendous flexibility that many traditional classroom instruments do not. I find that one of the most exciting aspects of Choirchimes is that the musicians can actually move while using the instruments. Our students have to sit all day in their classroom, so when they come into the music room I want them moving around. I want them moving musically, moving in a way that shows they are listening to the music they are hearing or they are creating. Listening and responding expressively is a crucial skill for musicians.

Choirchimes are also the ideal instrument for music teachers who do not have their own classroom.

Malmark: What would you like to tell us about how you envision Ring, Dance, Play being used and what makes your book unique among other Orff or music educator resources?

Griff: To the best of my knowledge, this is the first resource that focuses on Choirchimes as an Orff based instrument. We are seeing chimes being brought to more and more Orff training sessions, but many educators are still unsure about how to integrate the instrument into their classroom. This book was designed to help teachers realize that using chimes as a tool for teaching is not about doing something completely new, it is about doing what you are already doing with a new resource added to your repertoire. Frequently teachers approach me after a workshop on using Choirchimes in the classroom and say, "I have had a set of chimes sitting in my closet for years, and I just never really knew what to do with them!" We hope that this resource provides lessons for music educators to use in their classrooms, but perhaps more importantly, we hope it provides a framework for teachers to create their own arrangements and lessons using chimes.

Malmark: What does a teacher need to know to begin using Choirchimes in their class?

Griff: Teachers just need to be open to trying something a little different and be willing to explore. The book provides a chapter on basic ringing techniques, but in early explorations with chimes in a classroom setting "technique" is not important. I put chimes in my kindergarten students hands early on and they very naturally understand how to make them ring.

Malmark: In your opinion or experience, why don't more educators embrace Choirchimes as a tool in their classrooms?

Griff: I believe some educators are either not aware of the existence of Choirchimes, or they see chimes as an ensemble based instrument. Although I love my chime ensemble, the true value of the instrument for me lies in how they are used on a daily basis in my classroom. My vision is that someday Choirchimes become accepted as a standard music education classroom instrument.


About the Authors:

Griff Gall is an elementary music and movement specialist in the town of Danvers, Mass. He earned a B.M. in Music Education from Westminster Choir College and completed his Level III Orff Schulwerk training through Boston University while attaining his Masters of Music education. He continues to study dance with the Boston Ballet School and Urbanity Dance.

Paul Weller teachers elemental music and musical literacy in Minnesota to grades 1 - 5. He earned a B.A. from St. Olaf College, an M.A. in Education from St. Mary's University and Orff Schulwerk Levels from University of St. Thomas

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