Girl Playing Ocarina

No previous clay experience necessary!  

In the Ocarina Building Workshop, students design and create their own playable wind instrument out of clay. The instrument is created on the first day of the workshop, then is kiln fired and returned to the students on the second day of the workshop (dates should be a minimum of 2 weeks apart, but a shorter turn-around time is possible). With their personally designed instruments in hand, the students learn how to play their new instrument.

The students experience a creative session working hands-on with clay.  Students are coached personally by the instructors in creating the best instrument while creatively sculpting the clay.

Shape of Instrument

undecorated turtle ocarina1A very rounded shape creates the best instrument. Students experienced in sculpting with clay have the freedom to create a unique design while staying within a set of guidelines. Students with no clay experience, very young students, and students with a limited range of motion with their hands are encouraged to stick to a basic, circular, rounded shape. Instructors work one-on-one with students to guarantee success in creating a playable instrument.

See how this Turtle Ocarina goes from raw clay (top photos) to a decorated, playable instrument (lower photos)!

A combination of music, art, sculpture, design and cross-cultural history, while developing finger dexterity, eye-hand-finger coordination and strength, this program has something for everyone! Since 1985, children & adults alike have been delighted with the instruments they design & build from clay, and then can play. Field tested with children & special children, at-risk youth, and adults & older adults — all ages — this project works well in a variety of settings, including schools, summer programs, home schools, special needs classes, art museums, retirement centers and libraries.

Workshop Ratings

The Ocarina Building program has received “excellent” ratings by teachers, early childhood educators, and school administrators. Parents & teachers are welcome to be a part of the creative process, & can participate by building an instrument.

Located in south-central Pennsylvania, we travel to locations throughout PA, VA, WV, NJ, MD, NY, DE, and more. Contact us for more information.  We also produce the “From Earth to Song” MyOcarina building kit, a make-home ocarina kit (contact us for more information).

photo of ancient ocarinaBrief History of the Ocarina

The ocarina, made out of clay, belongs to the ancient family of musical instruments called “vessel flutes” for their rounded appearance rather than long tubular shape.  Made in a variety of shapes and sizes, such round flutes were used for rituals, courtships, celebrations, and for communication over long distances. The ocarina first appeared in Mexico, Peru, and, later, Italy. It has been found in ancient Aztec archaeological digs.

The ocarina in this photo was made for the 1879 Sydney World Fair (as written on the dateplate on the instrument. The instructor of the Ocarina Building Workshop has a collection of about 30 of these instruments, in different sizes and keys.

Workshop Scheduling

We offer workshops for groups of 15-20 students (of any age), and can do up to 4 groups a day. Scheduling is flexible; during the day, in the evenings, or on weekends. The Ocarina Building Workshop is a great activity for birthday parties, summer camps, festivals or special events, the Ocarina Building Workshop helps to develop self-esteem in people of all ages. The instructors show the students how to make a complicated-looking project easy.

Workshop Synopsis

The standard program for this project is two (2) sessions, approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour each.  Additional sessions are available for composition.

Session I: “Design & Build”

  • After a short lecture/demonstration on the ocarina, it’s history and sound, students learn how to build an ocarina.
  • Using clay, students will design & build a playable wind instrument.
  • Each student decides the shape as well as where to place the finger holes and mouthpiece.
  • Students do not get to keep their instruments at this time, because the clay is wet & needs to be air dried & then kiln fired.

Session II (2+ weeks later): “Play Ocarinas”

  • After kiln firing, the students receive their instruments.  They learn to play single notes & then four- to six-note songs on their ocarina.
  • At this point, the ocarinas are stoneware and can be washed (dishwasher-safe except for the whistle), played and decorated with paints (acrylic is best).

Optional Additional Sessions: “Make Music”

  • Students play more songs & compose original music for their ocarina.  They learn musical modes, melody and harmonic structure.  They can then perform this piece in an all-school performance, if desired.
  • These sessions can be extended from one additional session to several weeks, allowing the students to learn about composition & performance.

Short-Term Goals:   Students build self-esteem through designing & creating their own high-quality wind instrument from clay that will last forever.  Students learn to play the instruments, songs & compose music on the instrument that they designed & built. Build finger-hand-eye coordination, reading and memory skills.

Long-Term Goals:  Create educated listeners who are excited about music & ceramics. Inspire others in an appreciation of the arts, interest in ceramics & music, and the ability to teach their interest to others, especially their children & their community. Building finger-hand-eye coordination, reading and memory skills.

Curriculum Links:  Music, Music Composition, Art, Sculpture, Design, Math, World Cultures, History, Physical Therapy

 Grades:  2nd grade to adult (can work with younger students — contact us for more information)

Audience Size:  15-20 students per session

Special Requirements:   Large table (if possible), buckets & access to sinks nearby

Available:  Year-round (indoor location required in inclement weather)

Curriculum Guide: Available upon request. Discussion & writing ideas, pre-performance activities, post-performance activities


“Thank you for being so accommodating with our school. The kids had a blast and our teachers really enjoyed the workshop! We hope to make this a yearly summer camp visitor as well; you and Laurie are awesome!” (Heather Eckels, Goddard School, Hershey, PA)

“These visits have immense value for children who are often not exposed to much in the way of the Arts.” (3rd grade teacher, Woodward Elementary)

“May have prompted some [students] to do more with music than listen.” (5th grade teacher, Goshen Elementary)

“The children in my class enjoyed this greatly.  They played the instruments at breaks and recess, and couldn’t wait to go home and play for their parents.” (3rd grade teacher, Goshen Elementary)

Partial List of Schools & other Locations that have participated in the Ocarina Project:

    • Bald Eagle Nittany HS
    • Burrowes Elementary, Lancaster, PA 
    • Camp Hill High School, Camp Hill, PA
    • Canon-McMillan School District  
    • Centerville Elementary (Four Corners International Festival, Millersville, PA)
    • Chase Academy, Manheim, PA
    • Conestoga Valley Homeschool (Four Corners International Festival, Millersville, PA)
    • Donegal Middle School, Mount Joy, PA
    • Doylestown Prison for Youth, Doylestown, PA
    • ER Martin Elementary (Four Corners International Festival, Millersville, PA)
    • Goddard School, Hershey, PA
    • Goshen Elementary, Goshen, PA
    • Hamilton Elementary, Lancaster, PA
    • La Academia (Four Corners International Festival, Millersville, PA)
    • Middletown Area High School
    • Manheim Central (Four Corners International Festival, Millersville, PA)
    • Nitrauer Elementary (Four Corners International Festival, Millersville, PA)
    • North Hills Elementary, York, PA
    • Oak Flat Elementary
    • Park Elementary, Columbia, PA 
    • Penn-Grampian Elementary
    • Pequea Elementary (Four Corners International Festival, Millersville, PA)
    • Price Elementary, Lancaster, PA 
    • Renovo Elementary, Renovo, PA 
    • Rohrstown Elementary, Rohrstown, PA 
    • Steelton Highspire Elementary
    • Sugar Valley Rural Charter
    • Taylor Elementary, Columbia, PA 
    • Third Ward School
    • West Branch Elementary, West Branch, PA 
    • Woodward Elementary  

 Partial List of Retirement Communities that have participated in the Ocarina Project:

  • Country Meadows (West Shore, Lancaster & Shiloh, PA locations)
  • Ecumenical Communities (Harrisburg, PA)
  • Oak Leaf Manor (Millersville, PA)

Other Educational Programs available: