Paul Nordoff

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Paul Nordoff (June 4, 1909 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – January 18, 1977 in Herdecke, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany) was an American composer and music therapist, anthroposophist and initiator of the Nordoff-Robbins method of music therapy. His music is generally tonal and neo-Romantic in style.

Herdecke Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Herdecke is a town in the district of Ennepe-Ruhr-Kreis, North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. It is located south of Dortmund in the Ruhr Area. Its location between the two Ruhr reservoirs Hengsteysee and Harkortsee has earned it the nickname Die Stadt zwischen den Ruhrseen.

North Rhine-Westphalia State in Germany

North Rhine-Westphalia is a state of Germany.

West Germany Federal Republic of Germany in the years 1949–1990

West Germany was the informal name for what was officially the Federal Republic of Germany, a country in Central Europe, in the period between its formation on 23 May 1949 and German reunification on 3 October 1990. During this Cold War period, the western portion of Germany was part of the Western bloc. The Federal Republic was created during the Allied occupation of Germany after World War II, established from eleven states formed in the three Allied zones of occupation held by the United States, the United Kingdom and France. Its (provisional) capital was the city of Bonn. The Cold War era West Germany is sometimes retrospectively historically designated the "Bonn Republic".



Born in Philadelphia, he studied the piano at the Philadelphia Conservatory, receiving a B.M. degree in 1927 and an M.M. degree in 1932. He later studied with Rubin Goldmark at the Juilliard School and in 1960 he received a Bachelor of Music Therapy from the Combs College of Music in Philadelphia. He served as head of composition at the Philadelphia Conservatory (1938–1943), a teacher at Michigan State College (1945–1949), and professor of music at Bard College(1948–1959). While still a student he encountered the work of Rudolf Steiner and became a member of the Anthroposophical Society in 1943, visiting its centre in Dornach to lecture at the conferences held there on Music after 1954. [1]

Bachelor of Music is an academic degree awarded by a college, university, or conservatory upon completion of a program of study in music. In the United States, it is a professional degree, and the majority of work consists of prescribed music courses and study in applied music, usually requiring proficiency in an instrument, voice, or conducting. In Canada, the B.M. is often considered an undergraduate degree. Programs typically last from three to four and a half years.

Master of Music first graduate degree in Music awarded by universities and music conservatories

The Master of Music is, as an academic title, the first graduate degree in Music awarded by universities and conservatories. The M.M. combines advanced studies in an applied area of specialization with graduate-level academic study in subjects such as music history, music theory, or music pedagogy. The degree, which takes one or two years of full-time study to complete, prepares students to be professional performers, conductors, and composers, according to their area of specialization. The M.M. is often required as the minimum teaching credential for university, college, and conservatory instrumental or vocal teaching positions.

Rubin Goldmark American composer

Rubin Goldmark was an American composer, pianist, and educator. Although in his time he was an often-performed American nationalist composer, his works are seldom played now. Today he is best known as the teacher of other important composers, including Aaron Copland and George Gershwin.

His work as a composer was acknowledged by two Guggenheim Fellowships (in 1933 and 1935) and the Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship for music. In 1958 he gave up his academic career, convinced of the power of music as therapy for disabled children. Encouraged by colleagues in research and psychology, he began his explorations with disabled children in Great Britain and Europe, teaming up with Dr Clive Robbins, a special educator committed to music as a medium of therapy. [2]

Guggenheim Fellowships are grants that have been awarded annually since 1925 by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to those "who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts." The roll of Fellows includes numerous Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer, and other prize winners.

From 1958 to 1960 Paul Nordoff worked in Sunfield Homes together with Michael Wilson and Dr Herbert Geuter, the son of founder Fried Geuter, both accomplished musicians conversant with the field of music therapy themselves. Thereafter he visited 26 institutions offering Special Needs education, introducing his methods in England, Scotland, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany.

Sunfield is an Independent special school, Children’s Home and charity on the border of Worcestershire and the West Midlands in England. It was founded in 1930 and now supports boys and girls, aged 6 – 19 years, with complex learning needs, including autism.

Michael Wilson, was a musician, curative educator, scientist, translator and General Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain

Carl Friedrich Wilhelm "Fried" Geuter, was a pioneer of anthroposophical Special Needs education, the co-founder of Sunfield Children's Home and founder of the Ravenswood Village Settlement near Crowthorne in Berkshire.

Thereafter, they worked together in a research programme beginning in 1961 for two years, in which they treated children with severe handicap in public schools in Philadelphia by means of music therapy, with astonishing results on their ability to learn. Also autistic children were activated and enlivened through their therapy sessions with music.

He was married to the American Eurythmist Sabina Nordoff.

Eurythmy expressive movement art associated with Anthroposophy

Eurythmy is an expressive movement art originated by Rudolf Steiner in conjunction with Marie von Sivers in the early 20th century. Primarily a performance art, it is also used in education, especially in Waldorf schools, and – as part of anthroposophic medicine – for claimed therapeutic purposes.

He composed the score to three of Martha Graham's ballets: Praeludium (1935), Every Soul Is a Circus (1939) and Salem Shore (1943).

Martha Graham American dancer and choreographer

Martha Graham was an American modern dancer and choreographer. Her style, the Graham technique, reshaped American dance and is still taught worldwide.

<i>Every Soul is a Circus</i> ballet

Every Soul Is a Circus is a comedic ballet choreographed by Martha Graham. The dance premiered on December 27, 1939, at the St. James Theatre in New York City. The original score was composed by Paul Nordoff. Philip Stapp created the set. Edythe Gilfond designed the costumes. The production marked the first appearance of Merce Cunningham with the Martha Graham Dance Company.

Salem Shore is a solo modern dance work choreographed by Martha Graham to original music by Paul Nordoff. The piece premiered on December 26, 1943 at the 46th Street Theater in New York City. The ballet featured costumes by Edythe Gilfond and a set by Arch Lauterer. Program notes accompanying the first performance described the dance as "a ballad of a woman's longing for her beloved's return from the sea."

Nordoff's music was published by Associated, Carl Fischer, Theodore Presser, and G. Schirmer.

Two films featuring their work were broadcast on BBC Television. In 1976, musicians and managers in the British music industry formed the Silver Clef fund-raising organization to support all the activities of the Centre. [2]

Nordoff-Robbins music therapy

Clive Robbins joined Sunfield as a teacher in 1954 and it was here that he met Paul Nordoff when he came to visit. Encouraged by Dr Herbert Geuter to play to one of the boys and observe the results, Paul Nordoff quickly became inspired by the potential of music to communicate something to severely disabled children. Clive Robbins, equally inspired, teamed up with him to research and develop what is known today as the Nordoff-Robbins method of music therapy, pioneered and still practiced at Sunfield today.

Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy is an improvisational and compositional approach to individual and group therapy that resulted from the pioneering teamwork of Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins over a period of 17 years. The early development of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy resulted from Nordoff and Robbins' similar philosophical background, the supportive environment of Sunfield Children's Home, the guidance of Herbert Geuter, M.D., and their courage. Since the 1959-1960 academic year, the application and practice of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy has undergone many changes. However, the pioneering spirit of Nordoff and Robbins manifested in that watershed year remains strong among contemporary Nordoff-Robbins music therapy practitioners. [3]

Nordoff died in Herdecke, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany in 1977 at the age of 67.


Together with P. Grabbe

with Franklin Brewer

with Clive Robbins


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  1. Westhagen, Axel. "Forschungsstelle Kulturimpuls - Biographien Dokumentation" . Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  2. 1 2 "History - Nordoff Robbins - NYU Steinhardt" . Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  3. Kim, Youngshin (1 January 2004). "The early beginnings of Nordoff-Robbins music therapy". J Music Ther. 41 (4): 321–339. doi:10.1093/jmt/41.4.321. PMID   15762836.