Congratulations to Diana Hawley Larsen

June, 2015 Recipient of ACEMM’s Spotlight Award

  “The elemental approach to music and movement education allows students to do music, to be musicians….

 This is how true understanding is developed”

                                                      ~ Diana Hawley Larsen



 Engaging Students and Collaborating with Colleagues

“My goal is to engage children in thinking and learning through music and movement. During our time together, I try my best to be present with them, which usually comes through playful interaction.”

Diana describes crafting lessons that develop playful, well-processed activities that engage children and give them tools for meaningful, creative work.

This creative work takes place daily at Norman Borlaug Elementary School in Coralville, Iowa with up to twelve 25-minute classes of Kindergarten through sixth grade students. In addition, Diana works with two before-school performance ensembles, which meet weekly and perform in the community several times during the year. The school serves 400 students, reflecting the diversity of the community. The town is also home to the University of Iowa.

Diana is fortunate to work with a ‘fabulous’ team of music teachers in Iowa City. They stay connected and support each other through conversation and collaboration. Through “Teacher Quality” funds, the school district supports opportunities for teachers to visit other classrooms, as well as time outside school hours to work on common projects.

Diana has led several professional development sessions using Jane Frazee’s Artful-Playful-Mindful project model in the music classroom. These sessions have led to a collaborative effort to create common projects that would be conducted in several schools. “Teacher Quality” funds allow teachers not only to create the projects, but also to observe the projects in other classrooms by providing substitutes.

Living Abroad Brought World Music to her Elementary Classroom

Diana lived and taught in Thailand for five years where she grew to love the music and culture of her new home.  As she became familiar with the songs, instrumental music and games of Thailand, she began to think about combining this keen interest with her training in Orff Schulwerk…

“What if I revisited my favorite Thai songs and games, refined the lessons using my latest learning from summer Orff courses, and shared them with an interested audience?”

What followed were several years of selecting and arranging materials, developing lessons, receiving feedback and refining processes.  She commented, “It was some of the most meaningful work of my life.”

Diana has gone on to present sessions on this work at state conferences, chapter workshops as well as an AOSA national conference.

She continued her study travels with the 2014 International Summer Course at the Orff Institute in Salzburg as the Barbara Potter Scholarship recipient.

Diana contributes to the music education profession through her writing and work with colleagues nationwide.

“Most recently I was thrilled to team up with a talented colleague and friend, Lennie Davis, to compile a sample set of “Artful-Playful-Mindful” projects written by Orff-inspired teachers from across the country.”

She and Davis worked closely with author, Jane Frazee, who Diana refers to as “an amazing mentor,” to prepare and publish the collection entitled Artful-Playful-Mindful in Action: Orff Schulwerk Classroom Projects for a New Generation of Learners. The collection will become available in November.

What Parents, Administrators and Colleagues are saying about Diana…

As many schools continue to make reductions in music education and time in music class, Mrs. Larsen steps forward by donating her time to help students enjoy more music with ORFF club.  It has been wonderful to watch our son’s… appreciation and love for music grow…. She has gone above and beyond in scheduling events within the community to share the joyful musical talents of her students.  I am sure, in the years to come, as our family reflects on the… years of elementary school, one of our fondest memories will be of the ORFF club and the musical experiences Mrs. Larsen provide for our son, all of her students, and the community!    ~ Jim Cochran and Lisa DeShano, Parents

Diana Larsen has gone above and beyond in her work with our Borlaug students as the director for two Orff Clubs at Borlaug Elementary. Ms. Larsen does an outstanding job bringing forth the talents of our students, which are shared through different concert experiences she organizes for the clubs as well.  The students and their families are extremely proud of their musical accomplishments and Orff tradition, which are showcased through the leadership of Ms. Larsen.        ~ Celeste Shoppa, Principal, Norman Borlaug Elementary School

Diana Larsen has brought an intellectual thoughtfulness and a quest for deeper understanding to our district professional development meetings.  Diana’s strong skills in technology, her delight in global cultures and her commitment to Orff Schulwerk have positioned her to make a powerful and positive impact on a new generation of general music teachers well into this century. Diana has a quiet appreciation for children and for her colleagues.  She listens carefully, processes what she hears and gently draws others into her world of music.  While guiding a well-prepared lesson, Diana uses humor and good will to partner with her students and to create a climate that encourages participation and exploration.  I am honored to join Jane Frazee in the recommendation of Diana Larsen for this award.  ~Sally Strang, Music Teacher, Iowa City Community School District                                          


…From the minute students arrive outside her classroom, each and every one of them is engaged. This is not by accident. Diana greets each class in the hallway and sings a special song to get their attention. Diana’s gentle, yet excited, tone of voice sets the tone for the class period. She sees each student as a musician with a unique talent.                  ~ Amy Sorenson, Instructional Coach, Borlaug Elementary School


Orff Club is something our son looks forward to every week:  he doesn’t balk at getting up earlier.  If anything he is willing to go to bed earlier the night before so that he can be ready for Orff.  He is excited for every performance and is eager to have us there to watch…!  It has boosted his self-esteem and confidence, and we are grateful to Diana for all of the time and energy she puts into the program.  ~ Jenny and Craig Crawford, Parents


ACEMM congratulates Diana Hawley Larsen on the supportive comments from colleagues, parents and administrators. Her efforts have not only benefitted the students she teaches but have awakened an understanding among the larger community that music and movement education can have a powerful impact on the social and aesthetic development of young people.

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