A Week of Intense Fun and Learning by Jimmy Rotheram

Jimmy Rotheram is music coordinator for Feversham Primary Academy, a school in inner-city Bradford which in the last five years has transformed from a special measures school to ‘outstanding’ by prioritising music and drama, and is now in the top 1 per cent of schools in the country for pupil progress. He also supports local schools with music training and events and performs soul, funk, jazz and comedy at weekends.

It’s difficult to find the words to describe the BKA Summer School experience to somebody who hasn’t seen it for themselves. So rather than spouting superlatives, perhaps the biggest testimony I can give is that when I had to go home, I sobbed and gulped like a baby who had had all of his favourite dinosaur toys taken away.

Serious fun
If you haven’t been before, it is a week of intense fun and learning. A week of revelations. A week of having the most fun you can possibly have with a room full of people and their voices, knowledge and imagination. A week of bonding with people who don’t think you’re weird for putting hand signs to distant car alarms. A week of people unselfconsciously walking round in a state of bliss, pressing in their belly buttons whilst blowing a song about rabbits through a straw into a bottle of water. A week of sideways looks from bemused delegates of other conferences. You will be exposed to a smorgasbord of musical styles. You will develop musicianship and classroom pedagogy from some of the finest minds in music education from around the world, alongside like-minded people who take music and having fun very seriously. I’ve never seen so many people having ‘personal breakthroughs’ so expect some – from the lady who had suddenly discovered a wonderful vibrato voice, to the young women who had never sung in choir or public before, to the man who could suddenly conduct easily.

A morning’s work
Let me walk you through a typical Summer School day. We would begin with an hour of rehearsing Haydn’s Missa Brevis with Árpád Tóth. I learned so much from watching him conduct and coach the choir – such as how to make the lyrics crystal clear, or how to ensure balance and musicality on each phrase, as well as how to warm up and prepare your choir in engaging ways for a session of singing.

This was followed by musicianship classes with Esther Hargittai, who showed us how to have fun whilst developing crazy skills like the ability to suddenly switch modes from any degree of the scale. Even singing and playing in the Phrygian mode was ‘always a joy, never a torture’ (guess which notable music educator said that this is how music should be?). After a quick brew and a natter with kindred spirits at coffee time, it was back to Esther who showed us how to consider all the details of conducting a children’s choir and make part-singing easy for them.

Optional Extras – Singing
I signed up for all of the extras, and recommend the investment to anyone. Allan Hubert-Wright’s singing lessons are truly bespoke and extraordinary. He can show you how to do anything, easily, with your voice. He has the scientific knowledge to know exactly what you need to do physically, and the musical knowledge to apply this perfectly to whatever you want to sing. He added an extra octave to my comfortable range, and suddenly a clear, powerful tone was coming out of my head voice for the first time ever, with a lot less effort than I was putting in before. I should also add that Allan could also be a professional stand-up comedian – he’s completely down-to-earth, friendly and hilarious. You don’t really question the reasons why you are singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in huge tremulous raspberries or blowing bubbles into a bottle of water while you sing, but once you’ve done these exercises and got rid of your giggles, you can sing like a champion. My new voice is like getting a brand new instrument to play with!

Optional Extras – Piano
Piano lessons with Orsolya Szabó are worth every penny. There are certain passages in pieces I practised for hours and hours without getting anywhere. Some gentle movement away from the piano, a slightly different posture, miniscule adjustments to my hand shape and suddenly I could play these passages straight away, without even having to practise! This woman has superpowers! If you don’t believe me, she is a Hungarian gymnastic champion, international concert pianist and a respected fine artist and poet, with a PhD in philosophy!

Joyful and inclusive
After lunch, we would have an afternoon of fun and games and belly laughs with the likes of Lucinda Geoghegan and Gerard Klaassens. We also enjoyed wonderfully creative Dalcroze workshops from Jacqueline Vann which I can’t wait to take back to the classroom. Many first attempts at the games ended in chaos and giggles, but soon we were mastering the games, and reassuringly, kids are far better co-ordinated with new things than most of us ‘old folk’ (over 20s!). Following this, we went deep into the detailed pedagogy with Bori Szirányi, which underpins all the fun and games and ensures musical literacy for everyone. In the evening we enjoyed lectures from the likes of Paul Wilson (folk music) and a wonderful performance from the London Adventist Chorale.

At the sun set, the reasonably-priced bar was filled with people making music together. A huge gang of joyful, inclusive musicians, clutching folders of Irish folk music, jazz real books, or just armed with their ears, wielding accordions, guitars, violins, violas, saxophones and ukuleles with up to three people on the piano singing part harmony. Students, tutors, virtuoso musicians, beginners, guest lecturers, all making music together for the love of it. Imagine the best jam or open mic night ever. Every night! But of course we were all up again bright-eyed and bushy-tailed the next day to do it all over again (at least we were after a hearty breakfast and a coffee or two).

I wanted to take everyone home with me and keep it all going in my garden. The anger of my girlfriend discovering hundreds of strangers dancing around our garden making strange noises and hand signs would be a small price to pay to stay a little longer in paradise. I’ll just have to settle for keeping in touch with my new family on Facebook, where incredible support is available for us.

But where the real magic happens is when you take all this back to the classroom and try it out. I’ve been studying the Kodály Approach in some depth over the last few years, and the more I learn and apply from my studies, the easier it is for my pupils to excel. People unfamiliar with the approach are amazed that my year 4s can aurally dictate pentatonic melodies, or sing in harmony, or keep a rhythmically complex ostinato whilst singing in canon. Especially when they are having SO much fun doing it. This is how music should be. Always a joy, never a torture.

My Summer School Experience by Louise Cooper

Louise Cooper is Head of Music at William Perkin C of E School in Greenford, West London.

I want to learn about this Hungarian school of music. What is the method by which I can achieve great results in my classroom? There is no method. There is no rule book. But go to the Summer School and you can find out more.

Looking back on it, attending the Summer School was akin to developing your mind in the way of the great spiritual traditions. Alongside rigorous scholarship (in our case, endless classes, study, homework, classes, study, homework), I learned as much by being in the presence of those who carried a great light for music education. Although I did not know much about Kodály the man himself, listening to Orsolya (and others) speak about him made me consider what an incredible gift he left us and what an incredible vision this man had. Cecilia Vajda was one of many who were so inspired by him that she carried a beacon for music education to this country. Through her endeavours, my education had been made possible. In my own humble way, I saw myself as part of this tradition of music educators: how would I carry that vision forward? What were my responsibilities to help others share the joy of music?

Making GCSE music accessible
As head of music in a secondary school, one of my challenges is how to make the study of GCSE music accessible to those who wish to study it. How can I teach them to read notation, carry out dictation, identify cadences and analyse scores when their ears (and eyes) may not be trained in Western Classical music? And how can I get them to love this?! About ten years ago a friend of mine recommended the Kodály approach and I went to evening classes with David Vinden. I immediately understood that this approach gave me a framework for introducing students to notation so I began to replicate many of the exercises with my students. Ten years on, I had embedded this approach into the curriculum and it was working. But I had a feeling there was more to learn…

There are no rules, but…
The Rule Book does not exist. But what did I learn? I can summarise my learning about this philosophy of music education in three points. My points may not be the same as yours and I reserve the right to change the points in another ten years! But this is where I got to:
1. Learning music should be fun! It can be learned at a desk, but the learning does not have to all be intellectually-based. Learning can be multi-dimensional: through movement, through singing, through games. Learning can be audio, visual, kinaesthetic, social. There are so many ways to explore music which are applicable with older students as well as younger students.
2. Through a well-planned, systematic, step-by-step approach it is possible to train students’ ears (with particular focus on the ‘inner ear’) in order to appreciate art music at a deep level. The ultimate goal is not a GCSE grade or even a class of perfect sight-readers; the ultimate goal is to share the joy of music with our students. If the methodology is good, we can get there.
3. We should have high expectations for our students. Frankly, I was blown away by the videos of the Hungarian primary school children as what they were able to achieve would be challenging with an A-level class. It has made me consider that I need to set the bar higher for my own students.

I came back from the Summer School buzzing with ideas. (I also momentarily considered retraining as a primary school teacher: how effective could this approach be if used in the early formative years?) Then back to school and dealing with the usual deluge of work which has swept me through September. Realigning my secondary curriculum with this approach will take me some time to effect. But as I carry the light of that inspiration I gained from the Summer School with me, there is no doubt in my mind that it will happen.

Magic by Laura McFall

Laura is a 25-year-old musicianship teacher and classical singer from Northern Ireland, and has recently accepted a place on the MMus Vocal Performance and Kodály Musicianship course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. She has also recently taken on the role of musicianship lecturer at the Junior Conservatoire of Scotland. Her plan for the future is to go back to Northern Ireland and teach musicianship in areas of deprivation, especially in the rural parts of Northern Ireland, as well as develop creative hubs and spaces for people living with dementia and special educational needs to come together and experience the life-changing power of music.

I don’t really know where to begin… The BKA Summer School was one of the highlights of my professional training to date. It is almost surreal now to think that I was fortunate enough to not only experience the highest level of musicianship training from the world’s most incredible Kodály experts, but also to be selected as one of the recipients of the CVMS award, which in all honesty, made this experience possible for me.

Bringing theory alive
During the course I attended a range of different musicianship classes during the day, and every evening I took part in the extra activities which included Morris dancing, Elgar part songs and of course, the Irish céilí. As invaluable and worthwhile as every single class was for my personal development on the course, I want to give a particular mention to a few of my own personal highlights. Firstly, to my amazing musicianship tutor, Esther Hargittai. Somehow, she managed to turn all the mathematical information that lay dead in my brain from those previous, scary ABRSM ‘theory’ exams about figured bass, chordal progression and modal harmony, into solfa magic! Already, I have started embedding these new ways of thinking with my new class of 10 – to 16-year-old musicianship students, who, after just one month of teaching, have already told me how much easier and FUN their musicianship class is… Magic!

Lifetime Achievement Award for David Vinden

The British Kodály Academy is delighted to announce that one of its long term members, David Vinden, has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Rhinegold Music Teacher Awards for Excellence.

David has worked tirelessly for the Kodály cause for most of his adult life. He is one of the BKA’s most popular tutors, always giving generously of his time and immense knowledge.

Accepting the award, David said, “If I could bring about one thing in education it would be the belief that all children should have music and that it should start as early as possible through singing.”

Huge congratulations to David from everyone at the BKA. You rock!!

First Thing Music

BKA Member Lindsay Ibbotson has been successful in gaining funding for “First Thing Music”, an exciting research project which will run during the school year 2018/19,  jointly supported by The Education Endowment Foundation and The Royal Society of Arts in partnership with, Tees Valley Music Service, the Institute of Education and the British Kodály Academy.

Primary Schools in Teeside and the North East are invited to consider taking part in this exciting and important project.  Please see FTM Info Pack Jan 2018 for details.

For more information please contact Lindsay on liftm@tvms.org.uk

Sing ARound


Sing ARound – Sunday 4th March 2018 and Tuesday 6th March 2018
2017 saw the start of the special memorial year – 135 years of the birth of Zoltán Kodály and 50 years since his death. As we near the end of this special year the British Kodály Academy would like to organise Sing ARound events around the country – it would be great to have 50 events! Even better to have 135!

How can you help?
Simply organise a local event in your area:
It can be any kind of event you want – provided there is singing involved! An informal gathering to sing a few canons, a group of children or adults having fun playing singing games or a full day training event. The choice is yours.

Why Sing ARound
The British Kodály Academy would like to promote the importance of singing and Kodály education especially in this special commemoration year. It would be great if a donation from each event could be sent to the British Kodály Academy to raise funds – any donation from the event is valuable to us in order to help us continue to offer training around the country. (If you would like us to organise a training event in your area, please let us know. Contact education@kodaly.org.uk for any further information)

Can schools get involved? 
Absolutely – this is why we have suggested Tuesday 6th March as an alternative date – It’s a school day! We don’t expect a donation from any school event – just have fun singing!

Please send us a photo of your event – we would love to see what happened around the country. Send any photographs you have to education@kodaly.org.uk

To help you advertise your event we have made a generic leaflet. Download here
Simply add description of event, time and venue!


Kodály on the BBC!


Update: Watch again on BBC iPlayer http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09gsfbb

In a very exciting move for the BKA, this Tuesday, 28th November, the BBC’s One Show will feature one of our members, and the great success he has had teaching music in a school in Bradford.

Jimmy Rotheram is the music coordinator in Feversham Primary School, an inner-city school, which was in special measures five years ago. Their success is down to one thing – the Kodály concept of music education. By giving all pupils access to this incredible way of teaching music, they have improved attendance, creativity, concentration and confidence, and produced some musicians of exceptional quality.

But it is not just in music that they have seen this success. Just as was seen in schools in Hungary, there has been a knock-on effect in other academic subjects. The improvements in mathematics and literacy have lifted the school out of special measures, and they are now significantly above the national average.

Following a recent article in The Guardian, which has been shared almost 200,000 times on social media, there was so much interest that the school had to run a conference to showcase their music making.

Happy children, great academic results, fabulous music-making. This is a real success story we can all be proud of.

Find out more about the Kodály Approach with our “Your Questions Answered” page

The One Show – BBC1 Tuesday 28th November 2017 at 7pm

View The Guardian article here: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/oct/03/school-results-music-bradford

Plus a feature on Adrian Chiles’ BBC Radio 5 Live programme – the feature is about 1 hour in http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09gfy6t

BKA Patron Bob Chilcott

The BKA are pleased to welcome the renowned composer and conductor Bob Chilcott as our new patron.

bobchilcottThe BKA commissioned Bob Chilcott to write a new choral piece for children called “A Tree of Song” for the Kodály Celebration Concert in March 2017. The concert marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Zoltán Kodály and celebrate 50 glorious years since the introduction to Britain of the Kodály approach to music education.

Bob ran a workshop in January for the BKA, featuring “A Tree of Song”. After the workshop the BKA were delighted when Bob agreed to be our newest patron.

Composer and conductor Bob Chilcott is one of the most widely performed composers of choral music in the world. He has a large collection of works published by Oxford University Press which reflects both a wide taste in music styles and a deep commitment to writing music that is singable and communicative. After a career as a singer, and twelve years as a member of The King’s Singers, he turned to conducting, and between 1997 and 2004 conducted the chorus of The Royal College of Music. Since 2002 he has been Principal Guest Conductor of The BBC Singers. He has conducted choirs in 30 countries over the last decade, recently in Russia, Canada, USA, Japan, Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, and Norway.

See profiles of all the BKA Patrons here

How Can I Keep From Singing!

How Can I Keep From Singing! – The BKA Songbook

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Middle School and Sunday School, early years and teenage boys, wheel-chair circle games and preparation for country dancing, adult community choirs and ethnically mixed classes, warm-ups in instrumental lessons and brilliant material for over a thousand young voices….. here are the thoughts of BKA members on the practical application of How Can I Keep From Singing!

Fiona Gaffney (Darlington):
Finding Kodály was the most important moment in my teaching career. After my initial Kodály training I discovered that there were few teaching resources available, until ten years ago, when the BKA Songbook was published. It has proved to be invaluable, providing inspiration and guidance to all practising Kodály teachers.

Anna Myatt (York):
I use the Songbook a lot with children’s Choirs. Last year I used Way down Yonder in the Corn Fields (p. 29) in my Big Sing in Rotherham – we had 1200 children singing it, 600 to a part! I like it because not only is it a good tune to remember and sing, but easy for part singing as one part has a held note. Also, the children love making up other verses with different animals to substitute in the last line: “Have you ever seen a pig putting on a wig?” and “Have you ever seen a sheep with Little Bo-Peep?”

This year I have found Mr Scarf’s Action Round (p. 37) to be very successful with both an adult community choir and children. We add in the actions one by one, sing in 2 parts, then leave out the actions one by one until you have only the R chest tapping on the off-beat very quietly.

Jacky Hintze (Edenbridge, Kent):
Ba-nu-wa (p.71): I have performed this charming African song with a small mixed choir, gradually building up from a single voice to a crescendo in the full 9 parts. The piece is easy to learn, as each part is repeated, yet the combination of voices produces beautiful harmonies, making it very suitable for performance. On some occasions we have dropped back in stages to a final solo; at other times, we have ended dramatically following the crescendo. As the book suggests, it also offers the chance for young lads whose voices were changing to play a full and active role by taking on the rhythmic Part 5. Always a firm favourite!

Senua de Dende (p.17): This is a good warm-up with a small local choir, to encourage accurate pitching in steps, with an octave jump thrown in for good measure. I have also used it with a mixed age group in Sunday School, adapting the words to “Jesus, the Saviour, praise Him!” We moved in a circle as we sang, with simple accompanying movements for each phrase. This meant the group picked it up effortlessly through repetition without the need for explicit teaching, although the structure of the song allowed the children to ‘feel’ the individual phrases, which could be made conscious at a later stage.

Love Somebody (p.2): This works very well with children in Early Years, especially to celebrate the Valentine season! The words and melody are simple enough to be readily assimilated during the game, which means that young children are soon joining in. The game can be adapted to suit individual abilities – eg, with a child walking or skipping round the circle – and at varying tempo. I have also used it at a special school for children with cerebral palsy, giving them the chance to move around the circle in their wheelchairs, singing at a gentle pace, allowing time to manoeuvre the chairs.

Christine Wrigley (Bedford):
I have enjoyed using so many of the songs. The book is targeted at age 8-13, precisely the range I was working with when I taught flute at my local state Middle School. I was grateful for material ideally suited to both age and stage of development of the children, therefore making my job so much easier.

Mosquito Song (p. 47): I taught this by rote to all my flute pupils. Eah pupil played it at the beginning of every lesson for two terms. They came to know and love the overarching A A B Bv structure, with its internal melodic and rhythmic repetitions, shapes and variations. By using the note A as la, the children practised the tricky flute finger pattern E,D,C in both falling and rising form – without me even mentioning the words “technical exercise”.

All 24 pupils attended a weekly flute group and we played it in various ways: in canon at 2-beats’ distance, at 1-beat’s distance, in the low register, in the high register, individually, in pairs or larger groups. The real beginners joined in slowly, in augmentation, while the ones who thought that the only way to play an instrument was fast, could test themselves by playing quickly, in diminution. This really motivated them all to hold the ensemble together, so they LISTENED and CONCENTRATED – again without me even having to mention the words! The highlight was performing it as a four-part canon at the school concert – from memory of course! The Head said afterwards that it had been his favourite item.

Ma, Ma, will you buy me a banana? (p. 24): I can see a happy picture – the class of thirty ethnically- and ability-mixed year 4 children from a socially deprived part of town. They stand in two rows facing each other, one line singing the child’s part and the other the part of the hounded Mama, who not only has to buy the banana, but also peel its skin before her offspring eventually offers her a bite. My brief was to teach the whole class to play the recorder, and the children sang this question and answer song with real understanding and gusto. This ‘Wider Opportunities’ project proved to be an impossible mission, but when I heard those children singing with such joy about bananas, I knew that I’d taught them something much more precious than how to finger a B.

Roderick Elmer – St. Monica’s Catholic Primary School, Southgate, N. London:
I find it an extremely useful song-book. There are a few songs I use all the time, but when I try a new song I invariably find that it is a “hit” with the pupils as well. We have many Irish children in my school and they enjoy singing Jug of Punch (p.93). Although it has lots of words we are gradually learning them all by memory.      

When we sing As I was walking down the street (p.45) I divide the Year 3 class into pairs around the hall and they act the song. Each pair starts from far apart, and they walk towards one another, meeting and shaking hands on the word “meet”. In the second half of the song they skip around together. We have also performed the dance as a preparation for other country dances.

Celia Cviic (Wimbledon, London):
Missa Ram Goat  (p. 23): This song never fails to please and engage singers, young and old. Its educational value – introducing, understanding, and consolidating the syncopa rhythm – is underpinned by many other useful attributes. These include the catchy rhythm, opportunities for two-part-singing, both simple and more complex, and the challenge of being able to sing and perform the syncopa at the same time – and the sheer enjoyment generated by the song itself.

The Diamond  (p. 98): This has a very strong melody and real-life subject matter, which engage children and adults alike. It can stand alone without any accompaniment or second part, and is very useful in workshop situations where encouragement to sing with vigour and good articulation is a prime concern

Len Tyler (Camberley):
I have chosen Duck Dance (p. 43) – a fantastic opportunity for movement improvisation and circle dance. I use it with age 6/7 and up. A very simple way to point up the syncopa rhythm is for children to sing the song as they walk in a big circle, and enjoy clapping the rhythm of 2nd, 4th and 6th bar.  It is great fun done in two circles and works really well in canon at one bar interval, added to which it’s a terrific song for experiencing ‘triola’ in the last line!

Margaret Oliver (Coventry):
Although I am now retired from teaching, I still find the book a useful resource. As current BKA bookstore manager, I often have to advise students and customers about the books we sell. I recently discovered Searching for Lambs (p. 95) a gorgeous flowing folk-song in the natural minor, in answer to a need for a piece in 5/4 time. The song closely follows speech rhythms, which gives the 5/4 a really natural feel. One customer asked why the song has a 3/4 bar in the middle. Again I feel this answers the narrative at that point in the verse, where the story needs to move on quicker.

Natasha Thompson (Towcester):
I come back to the BKA Songbook time and time again with my children’s and adult choirs – I have two copies as I never want to be with out one! It is packed full of tried and tested songs with lots of suggestions on how to use, teach, and perform them, and even how to add movement. Each song is a gem – it’s always worth having another look in the book, as you never know what you might discover. The indexing at the back is invaluable, instantly giving the information you require about each song.

One of my favourites is Christmas Round  (p.13). Sung very rhythmically, you can use it as a vehicle for gospel-style improvisation – add harmonies, even move it up a semitone for repeats. I also love Si, Si, Si (p. 69), such a joy to sing with a real ‘feel-good’ factor. Li’l Liza Jane  (p. 60) is a gem with my new adult choir. I give a verse to the men, a verse to the ladies, and as they get more experienced, gradually get the ostinatos going, adding them one by one.

Cyrilla Rowsell (Croydon):
Viva la musica (p.19) is always a favourite. I used it with my school choir for our performance at the Festival Hall for the Music for Youth Finals. The adjudicator didn’t hear me very quietly giving the starting pitch, and was amazed that everyone came in together on the right note! Everybody loves singing Hashivenu (p.70), a beautiful Hebrew song and a good example of the natural minor. Ha Ha Ha (p. 67) is great for teaching the major triad – I usually do it just in solfa, not the words.

One of my own favourites is Bird of Heaven (p. 54), which I sing regularly with a small Quaker singing group I lead once a month in Cambridge. It was such a pity we couldn’t include a recording of it on the CD as it is copyright.

My sincere thanks to everyone who has contributed to this article. It gives us all much inspiration and great practical ideas. Miraculously not one person has chosen the same song as anyone else! It’s wonderful to hear that the BKA Songbook still has solutions for all occasions.

Celia Waterhouse
(Songbook Editor)

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BKA Residentials by Charlotte Brennan

Charlotte Brennan Insert

At the BKA courses, you find yourself surrounded by people who love making music with others and want to learn more. People come from so many different musical backgrounds and levels of experience – the courses really embrace the philosophy ‘music should belong to everyone’. The music you can make collectively on the courses can be so simple, but really stunning – since everyone allows themselves to be so immersed.

Charlotte Brennan Confident PurpleAs a primary school music teacher, I have found the BKA courses invaluable for helping me develop more structure to my teaching. The Kodály approach works on the premise that music is a skill that everyone can learn when they are taught effectively – the courses offer such great training in music pedagogy, and are led by very inspiring tutors. There are sessions specifically on methodology, where you can learn how to break the skills down and teach them in a way that is progressive. I quickly found myself armed with new songs, games and teaching ideas that I couldn’t wait to try out with my classes – and gaining the knowledge of how to present these in a structured way left me feeling much more confident and professional at what I do.