Canterbury lecturer graduates with Waikato music degree

20 October 2010

heather dow

Heather Libeau-Dow: Is the first to graduate from Waikato University with a Postgraduate Diploma in Education, specialisingin Music Education .

Waikato University will confer their first Postgraduate Diploma in Education with a specialisation in Music Education tomorrow – to a Canterbury University music lecturer. Heather Libeau-Dow teaches curriculum music and professional studies and practice at Canterbury and also teaches singing privately to promising students. She chose the Waikato qualification because it is based around the Orff Schulwerk method of music teaching.

Waikato University’s Faculty of Education launched its Postgraduate Diploma in Music Education in 2007. It included as a core, two papers in Orff Music Education: Theory and Practice with delivery online and intensive on-campus workshops. Heather Libeau-Dow decided to enrol.

“I I first came across the Orff Schulwerk method as a student 15 years ago and it resonated with my teaching philosophy. I’d done the Orff levels courses in Melbourne but the postgraduate diploma put it in a theoretical framework – so I was able to get the perfect match of practice and theory.”

Libeau-Dow says she won’t pretend studying and working full-time wasn’t tough. The online component to the diploma meant she could work late into the night. “And the week-long workshops with international presenters, well they’re a bit like a boot camp – but wonderful, I’m so glad I did it.”

It’s had positive spin-offs in several directions. “First it’s impacted how I teach in the studio and lecture room. Child-centred music sessions commence with text and are scaffolded to actively involve students in musical experiences at their level. Results are creative and collaborative,” she says.

This year, Libeau-Dow went to Salzburg in Austria for an international Orff Schulwerk Summer School and has since decided to leave the university at the end of the year and set up on her own as a music consultant. “Doing the postgraduate qualification and the summer school has given me the knowledge and confidence to start my own business. I’ll still be teaching, but rather than preparing student teachers I’ll work with lead teachers in schools implementing music programmes.”

The Orff Schulwerk method allows singers to improvise vocally and allows students to use percussion without possessing advanced musical skill. “I’ve seen it implemented in a school where the teacher couldn’t sing but was able to initiate an Orff-based music programme. It usually starts with a poem or song, children can share repertoire from their different backgrounds, which is fantastic for confidence building and sharing of cultures.”

Libeau-Dow says she’s seen over and over the difference music can make to a person, building their confidence and reflecting different aspects of personality, and she hopes any future curriculum changes include an emphasis on music and creativity. “You cannot over estimate the value of music."

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