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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An Appraisal of Sarah Glover’s Norwich Sol-fa Method by Celia Waterhouse


Much of this methodology was carried forward through John Curwen’s
Tonic Sol-fa method, to have an influence on Zoltán Kodály

by Celia Waterhouse
Independent Music Teacher based in Cambridgeshire, UK

Presented at the 19th International Kodály Symposium in August 2009, Katowice, Poland

Sarah Glover’s method for music education has a special value in the history of the Kodály movement, as the first example of a systematic programme of practical musicianship training through unaccompanied singing and relative solfa. Much of this methodology was carried forward, through John Curwen’s Tonic Sol-fa method, to have an influence on Zoltán Kodály.

Sarah Anna Glover (1786 -1867) was the daughter of the curate of St Lawrence’s church Norwich. As a young woman she began directing the music in church, and teaching with her sister at local parish schools, charity schools and Sunday schools. At that time Sunday Schools were schools for poor children who had to work on weekdays, when the more fortunate children attended regular school. She was well educated, had a lifelong interest in many subjects and was familiar with contemporary educational philosophy, scientific theory, scholarly treatises and histories of music. An accomplished amateur musician and pianist, Sarah Glover was also a gifted and inventive teacher.

The singing of her young pupils soon gained a reputation, and she began to receive requests to train others to teach music. Studying music at the time consisted of fact learning, with various devices to facilitate stave reading. European methods favoured, numbers to represent degrees of the scale, or were based on fixed-do solfa. In England an old gamut-derived solfa, far removed from Guido’s original concept, and probably more of an obstacle than an aid to learning, was still in use.1 Over the next twenty years Sarah Glover experimented with teaching methods and materials, rejecting traditional methods, and devised her own adaptation of Guido’s solfa, extending it to a full relative solfa system. This was published anonymously in 1835 as Scheme for Rendering Psalmody Congregational.2 Glover used the term Psalmody in her title to refer to the singing of hymns in church worship.

Introduction to her Scheme
Sarah Glover was deeply influenced by the words of Beilby Porteus, Bishop of London, in his Charge to the diocese of London, written in 1790, and reprinted in 1811, when Sarah was twenty-five years old. She was just starting to take responsibility for music in church and in various schools. The Bishop exhorted the clergy to promote singing, and suggested that much could be achieved by training charity children and Sunday School children to sing.

Of all the services of our church, none appear to me to have sunk to so low an ebb, or so evidently to need reform, as our parochial psalmody.3

In her Prefatory Remarks,4 Sarah Glover commented on

the lamentably low state of psalmody in most of the churches belonging to the Establishment. Summarising the general lack of musical skills and singing ability amongst what she referred to as the superior orders of the community, she noted that Psalmody is therefore usually abandoned to the care of the illiterate, some of whom derive aid from a degenerate species of sol-fa-ing. 5

She outlined her vision:

Let singing become a branch of national education, not only in schools for the children of labourers and mechanics, but in academies for young ladies and gentlemen, … A very little practice well directed, would soon produce a sufficient degree of skill, to render this employment highly attractive to the pupils.6

She stated that two things were needed to achieve a better standard: a general acquaintance with notes, and practice in not only melody but harmony, so that all voices could take part. Her New Notation was designed to help beginners to learn, but in addition, she believed that those who could already read music would benefit from:

the practice of sol-fa-ing, so favourable to the production of accuracy in tune and so convenient to the practitioner who desires to avoid attaching sacred words to an air till all mechanical difficulty is surmounted. 7

The Scheme includes a teachers’ manual, as well as two pupils’ books of beginner repertoire in solfa notation. The first of these is a book of “German Canons” 8 providing a set of progressive lessons for teaching intervals, if sung merely in unison; but, when performed in parts, exercise the pupils likewise in harmony. The second is a book of Psalm Tunes in two-part arrangement, for the cultivation of harmony in schools for children. She also mentions an edition in preparation, with solfa in parallel with stave notation, to assist stave readers to study the new notation.

Sarah Glover writes that the Method’s effectiveness is proven:

I think I may assert from experience acquired in a school consisting of more than sixty poor children, that vocal powers are very generally attainable, and the art of singing at sight from the sol-fa-ing notation easy.9

Glover reasons that if musical people learn her method in order to teach others and cultivate their own voices to lead singing in church, psalmody will be much improved. She suggests that parents should engage a nanny who knows solfa in order to give their children the benefit of an early start. She acknowledges the effort and discipline required to achieve good psalmody, but states that this could bring many collateral advantages. She proposes that such learning exerts a good moral tendency, promoting health and recreation, and unites students with their leader, their school, and each other. Music, she says, composes while it raises the spirits, refines the mind, and under judicious regulations, is calculated to favour piety.10

Piety apart perhaps, we in the Kodály movement in the 21st century can still connect with many of Sarah Glover’s aims, beliefs and values:

  • Singing should be for all, as a part of national education. Everyone can sing – it is possible to achieve good results with regular appropriate practice.
  • Musical literacy, like linguistic literacy, should be available to all.
  • Music education should begin at an early age.
  • Music provides positive, uplifting, recreational and unifying values.
  • Music teachers must be well trained.

Her practical solutions to address the task also resonate with those of the Kodály Movement. She proposes:

  • A method to facilitate reading from the stave, develop harmonic hearing, improve tuning and intonation, and enable learning of music to take place before text is added.
  • Learning material organized in a progressive from simple to complex.
  • Materials that include singing in unison, in canon, and in parts
  • A curriculum designed for the needs of children rather than for adults

Arguing the case for Solfa
Sarah Glover summarises the limitations of stave notation:

  • There is no differentiation between tones and semitones.
  • There is a bewildering array of key signatures, though the construction of a scale is always the same
  • A change of clef turns the same symbol into a different note
  • Different symbols denote the same note – she cites all the C’s on the piano-forte. In contrast she asserts that Solfa needs no key signatures, clefs or ledger lines.

In contrast she asserts that Solfa needs no key signatures, clefs or ledger lines. She lists its other advantages:

  • It defines Rhythm more clearly.
  • It characterises each Interval within a key.
  • It marks the Mode.
  • It expresses the relationship existing between keys where Modulation occurs.
  • It renders Transposition easy.
  • It furnishes a set of syllables favourable to good Intonation.

The tendency of these improvements is …. to lead the pupil to sing better in tune, sooner at sight, and to imbibe more correct notions of the theory of music.11

Glover goes on to add one further advantage of solfa over stave notation highly relevant in the 1800s. It could be printed in common type, bringing down production costs and making printed music affordable and accessible to all. She suggests that the principal objection to her method is likely to be that students taught through solfa will be unable to read stave notation. However, she insists that solfa is a good introduction to stave notation, and that it enables students to make more rapid progress than they do if starting with the stave. Later she gives instructions for the transition from solfa to stave reading.12

She asserts that those who need music only for church psalmody will find solfa notation ample enough for all the purposes of social and congregational worship. The implication here is the lower classes, and given the social context, this is not a surprising statement. She was already breaking with convention by offering a practical means for all social classes to learn music, an opportunity previously available only to the wealthier.

We today value the same basic components for teaching music:

  • A teaching system to facilitate sound musical progress.
  • An affordable method readily accessible to all.
  • Simplified notation that allows musical understanding to develop, while paving the way to mastery of the stave.

Sarah Glover’s Solfa Notation
Most of Sarah Glover’s Anglicised spellings of the solfa names are still common in Britain:

Doh Ra Me Fah Sole Lah Te

In notation these were abbreviated to capital initials: D, R, M, F, S, L, T. She invented Te instead of Si for the seventh degree (to avoid confusion with Sole/S), and Bah and Ne for the sharpened sixth and seventh of the minor scale, also distinct from other solfa letters.

Lah Te Doh Ra Me Bah Ne

Curwen’s adaptations of these are summarised in the Appendix.

A chromatic note was indicated by a vowel change, to oy for a flat, and ow for a sharp. Modulations used a series of vowel-changes, the most frequent being u for the dominant and i for the subdominant.

A change of octave was shown by an accent over a note: a grave accent ( ` ) for the lower octave, and an acute ( ´ ) for the octave above. She made Lah the lowest note of the range,13 but later changed this to Sole, giving Doh central position in the scale.14

The tetrachordal view of the scale has led me to alter in some measure the arrangement I made of the accents in the two former editions of this work.

She credits various sources, but insists this change is the result, not of imitation, but of independent thoughts and experiments.15

Rhythm notation
In Sarah Glover’s approach, rhythm notation consisted of the careful spacing of notes, with punctuation marks showing beats.16

  • A vertical line ( | ) is shown for 1st beat, and dots ( . ) for subsequent beats. In quadruple meter, an exclamation mark ( ! ) is used for the 3rd beat.
  • A horizontal line is used to lengthen notes. Shorter notes are set closer together between dots.
  • A plus sign (+) represents a 1-beat rest. Longer rests are counted backwards from the overall number of beats down to 1.
  • The ‘foot’ at the head of the music indicated metre and the basic form of each metric unit (upbeats, slurred beats etc).

This simple system worked well with the rhythmically regular repertoire it was designed for. In addition, pupils always beat time together, tapping beat 1 on a wooden book-rest, and marking subsequent beats lightly on the arm. It may well be this technique which defined rhythm more clearly, as she claimed, rather than the rhythm notation itself.

Inventions and classroom aids
Sarah Glover invented a pitch classification system for the twelve keyboard pitches using letters, distinct from both the note letter-names (A – G), the solfa names, and from the letter I, which could be confused with a Roman numeral. Her solfa music had a code at the top giving the classification name for do and the starting pitch. 5

Note Letter Name   Norwich Solfa Classification
A#                               J
B / Cb                        K
C                                 O
C# / Db                     P
D                                Q
D# / Eb                     U
E                                 V
F                                 W
F#                               X
G                                 Y
G#                              Z

Most churches and schools had no piano or organ, and, in any case, few teachers could play. Glover invented a didactic musical instrument, which she named the Solfa Harmonicon. It was cheap to manufacture, like a small glockenspiel with chime bars of glass. Each semitone step was aligned and equally spaced, with a range of two octaves from G below Middle C,the complete range of children’s singing voices. Each pitch was labelled with letter name and classification name. Its purpose was solely to give keynote and starting pitch. Singing exercises, canons and psalms, even two-part singing, were unaccompanied from the start.

She devised a chart, showing solfa scales set out horizontally in twelve positions, which fitted on a roller inside the harmonicon. This was turned until do was lined up with the correct pitch. She also made a Pianoforte Card to fit behind the piano keys, indicating classification names for each key. Even a non-player could thus find do and the starting pitch, or any note of the scale, on either instrument. These practical solutions made it possible for ordinary teachers in parish schools and churches to use the Scheme.

A large chart, the Table of Tune, showed all the keys in columns in solfa, tones and semitones in proper ratio, following circle of fifths order. As time went by this was simplified into the Compound Ladder or Norwich Solfa Ladder, depicting only three solfa columns, the home key in the middle, the dominant on the right, and subdominant on the left. The Ladder was a crucial visual aid for practising solfa singing and simple modulation. Sarah Glover explains its importance:

Sol-fa-ing may be viewed as the Art of calculating the sound of an unperformed musical interval from one that has just preceded it. This power is obtained mainly through a familiar acquaintance with the perpendicular succession of the sol-fa syllables,… of which the diatonic scale is composed, & also of the horizontal succession of the sol-fa syllables which may be termed synonymous, being notes the same in pitch but differing in name. 17

Beginners sang exercises on the tonic chord of D major.

If the children have been much unaccustomed to singing, they will at first perhaps not be able to reach more than Doh, Me, Sole, if so, the upper Doh must be omitted for a time. 18

Once pupils could sing the tonic chord, simple harmonic exercises were begun, as a preparation for the German Canons. These are similar to the first exercises in Kodály’s Let Us Sing Correctly. Glover suggests hearing each child’s voice individually when the timidity and merriment, usual on these first efforts, have subsided, and putting the most competent children together to gain confidence from each other. These more able singers later became group leaders when dividing into voices – this was a great strength of the method, enabling part-singing to begin at an early stage.

Directions for instructing a school. 19
Sarah Glover sets out many enlightening guidelines showing her practical approach to teaching melody, harmony, rhythm, beating time, tone and expression. These contain much that is familiar to Kodály practitioners, and reveal her inventive and practical approach.

For experiencing metre and feeling the beat, she suggests:

Strike the palms together to express a loud beat, bend the hands into fists and strike them together for a soft beat. She begins with 2-time, the teacher counting and the pupils imitating the actions of her hand. … The Teacher might sing what she intends to teach the children (next), while the beating continues.

For initially teaching a canon:

She will herself dictate alone, half of it, and then require the class to imitate and join her in the repetition of it; the same with the latter half.

For teaching two-part singing:

When the pupils are capable of performing it well alone, the instructress may add a second part softly, with the syllable ah, then louder with the Sol-fa syllables. The same process happens when introducing a third or fourth voice ‘till all the four parts are distributed amongst four companies; one girl in each company should beat time as soon as it is the turn for her company to begin.

For beginning two-part songs:

When they are able to sing (the second part) without the aid of their instructress, she will insinuate the upper part with the syllable ah, increase the sound by degrees, and in due time add the Sol-fa syllables.

For intonation:

Care must be taken to prevent a tune from degenerating. … The principle defect will probably be flatness; and the flatness will chiefly occur at Me and Te; especially in the descending scale. … Practise Me with the Doh below, and with the Sole above; Te with the Sole below; then with the Ra above.

For varying the activity and keeping the energy flowing:

Let the tune be read in turn by the girls who compose each company. … Let small portions of a tune be sung in turn by the companies.… Let one half of the scholars beat time, while the other half sing, and vice-versa.… Let them write the words of a psalm and insert the bars. … Those who are more advanced, might transfer tunes from the old into the new, and from the new into the old notation.

Sarah Glover writes at length about the character of the music and the importance of the text. The principal perfection of music consists in speaking a language more refined than words can convey. 20

She wanted the spirit of the music to be fully accessible, and therefore gave performance directions in English, avoiding use of foreign terms, which might confuse pupils. Some succinct examples are: Soothing, Dignified and Plaintive, Spirited and Triumphant, Spirited and Dignified, Expressive of Holy Awe.21

Sarah Glover did not teach only children from the middle class, but also poor children from charity schools, some of whom had never sung before. Her method used unaccompanied singing, with activities and repertoire appropriate for beginners. The teacher played a crucial role as a model of good singing. She stated, a female’s voice is more easily imitated by children than a man’s.

Her fundamental principle was:

In teaching children music, I think it best to instruct them on the same principle as they are taught speech; that is by deducing theory from practice rather than practice from theory. 22

Sarah Glover’s school was one of the very few to receive positive comments on music teaching when the first national school inspections took place a few years after the Scheme was published. In spite of this endorsement, her method was not chosen for England’s first national school music teaching programme. Instead, a method using fixed-do, with a massive following in France, was adapted for use in England.

John Curwen and the start of the Tonic Sol-fa Method
Because his work so closely followed Sarah Glover’s, a brief summary must be included here of the work of John Curwen (1816 – 1880) and of Tonic Sol-fa.

Curwen took up his first post as a Congregational Minister in 1838. He was a brilliant Sunday school teacher with a reputation as a progressive. He took a keen interest in educational method, and was familiar with Rousseau and Pestalozzi, among others. As a result of his writings and lectures on education he was invited to write some articles outlining his approach to teaching, including the teaching of vocal music, and to become editor of a new nonconformist publication, the Independent Magazine.

With no musical training, he embarked on self-study in order to teach music. He was soon leading singing with large groups of children, and quickly realised the limitations of the fixed do method. In 1841 he was commissioned by a conference of Sunday school teachers to find the best method to teach music. When a friend showed him the recently published Scheme as a possible answer to his quest, he was astounded by its sound methodology. He describes his moment of realisation:

I now saw that Miss Glover’s plan was to teach, first, the simple and beautiful thing, music, and to delay the introduction to the ordinary antiquated mode of writing it, until the pupils had obtained a mastery of the thing itself. Her method was, beyond all controversy, more deeply established on the principles of the science than any other; and ….. I became convinced that it was also the most simple of all – the most easy to teach, and the most easy to learn. 23

He began to appraise the method and experiment with modifications. He compiled a children’s hymn book in solfa notation incorporating these modifications, and prepared a series of articles to present this adapted notation in the Independent Magazine. In October 1841, just before publication, he wrote to compliment Sarah Glover on her method, explained the modifications that he was convinced were improvements, and told her of his forthcoming publications.24 This was the start of the Tonic Sol-fa Method. Curwen chose this name to distinguish his use of relative sol-fa from the prevailing fixed do method.25 He saw no need for either Sarah Glover’s note classification system or for her ingenious harmonicon. He indicated key by giving the fixed pitch letter name as doh at the top 8 of the tonic solfa music.

He adopted the Ladder, and re-named it the Modulator. It became a standard feature of primary classroom walls in schools up and down the country, and remained a key component of the Curwen Method until after 1950. Curwen wrote:

The Modulator is used in teaching tunes. The teacher points to the pattern, both while he gives the pattern and while the pupil imitates it. This measures to the eye the exact intervals which the voice is taking. And the constant use of the solfa syllables in this connection always with the same intervals, helps the mind to recall those intervals with greater ease. 26

It is interesting to note that although Kodály did not adopt the modulator, many Kodály practitioners use classroom exercises and visual aids that perform a similar function.

Tonic Sol-fa became Curwen’s life’s work, spread by means of his publishing firm, by the Movement’s magazine The Tonic Sol-fa Reporter, and by the training of teachers. Sarah Glover’s Scheme had been preoccupied with a very limited style of music, church music, for a particular purpose, congregational singing. However, Curwen saw a much wider purpose, and greatly extended the repertoire. He continued to refine the Method and to incorporate new ideas, such as the French Time Names, 27 which first appeared in a revised version of his Standard Course in 1872. He always meticulously acknowledged his sources.

The hand signs, one of Curwen’s few original features, were not invented until 1870. 28 In spite of their practical application in the classroom, he wrote:

But these signs do not give that picture of interval and the relation of keys which is supplied by the Modulator, and can never take its place. … The Tonic Sol-fa method has three assistants in the teaching of tune – first, the hand signs; second, the memory-helping syllables; and third, the Modulator. 29

Tonic Sol-fa made a huge impact on musical literacy and music teaching throughout Britain and the Empire. By 1891, two and a half million British children were learning through Tonic Sol-fa in elementary schools. Curwen always acknowledged Sarah Glover as the founder of the Movement. A foundation stone in her memory was laid when his Tonic Sol-fa College was founded in 1879. Curwen’s fundamental educational precepts, set out and described in Chapter I of The Teacher’s Manual of the Tonic Sol-fa Method, are:

  • Let the easy come before the difficult.
  • Introduce the real and concrete before the ideal or abstract.
  • Teach the elemental before the compound and do one thing at a time.
  • Introduce, both for explanation and practice, the common before the uncommon.
  • Teach the thing before the sign, and when the thing is apprehended, attach to it a distinct sign.
  • Let each step, as far as possible, rise out of that which goes before, and lead up to that which comes after.
  • Call in the understanding to assist the skill at every stage.

The Method was still prevalent in Britain when Kodály visited fifty years after Curwen’s death. What he saw in English schools deeply influenced his thinking. According to Bernarr Rainbow:

Upon discovering the systematic method of training the inner ear which formed the basis of Curwen’s teaching, Kodály determined to make it the basis of a system designed to meet the special needs of Hungarian schools. 30

For Sarah Glover the religious and moral value of music gave rise to her mission to build a musical church community. Her insights into teaching children inspired her fresh and practical approach. Bernarr Rainbow wrote:

….whatever refinements Curwen added to her original system, the unique character of her basic method and the understanding of a child’s problems which it demonstrates are sufficient to justify for her an honoured place in her own right in the history of musical education. 31

Curwen found Sarah Glover’s method fundamentally at one with his own purpose and enlightened educational values. Through his vision and genius as a teacher, his position in society, and the opportunities he forged to spread his message, he developed the method on a much wider scale than she could have imagined, enriched with inspiration from many other sources.

Kodály acknowledged the inspiration he found in Curwen’s legacy: 32

In the course of a number of visits to England since 1927 I observed the highly developed singing in schools. To this I am indebted for much stimulation, which helped me gradually to complete my work for children. I am now very pleased to return to the English what I learned from them, and was able to adapt to our needs in Hungary.

Something of Sarah Glover’s practical insight into teaching music in the classroom has indeed been passed down, from Sarah Glover, through Curwen, to Kodály. For the benefit of mankind, these universal values of good music teaching continue to inspire us today.

1 Old English solfa, Lancashire Solfa, or ‘Fasola’, in The Land Without Music, by Bernarr Rainbow, (Novello, 1967), pp 14-28
2 Scheme for Rendering Psalmody Congregational, 1835, by Sarah Glover. Republished in the series Classic Texts in Music Eduction ed. Bernarr Rainbow (Boethius Press 1982)
3 The Life of Beilby Porteus, Bishop of London by Robert Hodgson (1813): from the Bishop’s 1790 Charge to the diocese of London, reprinted in 1811.
4 Scheme, pp 5-14 (Boethius Edition: 23-32).
5 Scheme, p 6 (24)
6 Scheme, p 7 (25). The emphasis is Sarah Glover’s.
7 Scheme, p 8 (26)
8 Musikalisches Schulgesangbuch von Carl Gläser, cited as source of her German Canons in an article on Scientific and Unscientific Singing in The Teacher’s Visitor (1848), an educational magazine ed. William Carus Wilson. (Strangers’ Hall Museum, Norwich). Further reading – see article Early 19th century music pedagogy – German and English connections by Jane Southcott (BJME 2007).
9 Scheme p 12 (30)
10 Scheme p 14 (32)
11 Scheme pp 17-18 (35-36)
12 Scheme, Appendix pp 69 (87)
13 Scheme, pp 34-35 (52-53) She was fascinated by Newton’s discovery of the analogy between the proportions of prismatic colours in the light spectrum, and the divisions of a musical 10 string in the ascending minor scale. She cites Newton’s analogy as her reason for choosing la as lowest note for the purpose of accents. For further reading, see Glover’s Intellectual Odessy by Jane Southcott (1995).
14 A Manual of the Norwich Sol-fa System for teaching Singing in Schools and Classes, Glover, 1848, pp 27-31
15 Ibid, p 31.
16 Sarah Glover’s rhythm notation is not unique and bears resemblance to Proposal of a Musical Short Hand or Literal Notation by J. Marsh (1822), which is among the books in the Strangers’ Hall collection. In 1827 Sarah Glover sent an unpublished version of the Scheme to Marsh for his comment. Several of her early manuscripts have pencil annotations and comments made by Marsh.
17 Unpublished hand-written book Rules for Sol-fa-ing, in the Strangers’ Hall collection.
18 Scheme, p 40 (58)
19 Scheme, pp 38-68 (56 – 86)
20 Scheme p 62 (80)
21 Solfa Tune Book, 3rd Edition (1939) pp. 10-23 (108-121). Republished with the Scheme (Boethius Press 1982 op.cit.)
22 Glover, 1848 op.cit. p 66.
23 Reprinted in John Curwen – A Short Critical Biography by Bernarr Rainbow (Novello 1980) pp 17-18
24 The letter is reprinted in The Land Without Music, Rainbow 1967, p 175. Sarah Glover’s reply to Curwen has been lost. He always acknowledged her as founder of the Tonic Sol-fa Movement and Method. They met amicably on several occasions, he visited her school, and they corresponded on cordial terms. Sarah Glover and her sister were invited to the first Tonic Sol-fa Jubilee in London in June 1857. Fuller discussion of the discord between John Curwen and Sarah Glover after he published her modified method – see Rainbow, and articles: Sarah Glover: A Forgotten Pioneer in Music Education by Peggy Bennett (1984), and “Dear Madam” – the letters of Sarah Glover and John Curwen by Jane Southcott (2003).
25 After Curwen began to publish books and articles about the Tonic Sol-fa Method, Sarah Glover published The History of the Norwich Sol-fa (1845) and republished her Scheme in 1848 as A Manual of the Norwich Sol-fa System for teaching Singing in Schools and Classes.
26 The Teacher’s Manual of the Tonic Sol-fa Method by John Curwen, 1875 (4th edition) p 100, § 330
27 La Langue des Durées by Chevé, Galin-Paris
28 Memorials of John Curwen by J. Spencer Curwen (1882), p 58-9.
29 Curwen 1875, op.cit. p 96 § 319.
30 Music in educational thought and practice Bernarr Rainbow with Gordon Cox (Boydell Press 2006), p 309
31 Bernarr Rainbow’s Introduction to the re-published Scheme (Boethius Press1982) op.cit.
32 Foreword for a publicity brochure following publication of the first English version of Kodály’s Choral Method in July 1962, in Rainbow 2006 op.cit. Appendix p 386.

The Kodály Concept by Gillian Earl

The Kodály Concept of music education is not a method as such, neither are there any Kodály instrumental methods. The Concept is unique in that Kodály combined elements from existing approaches to music education, (Dalcroze, Curwen, the Galin – Paris – Chevé movement etc.) and in that he initiated a comprehensive system of music education from nursery age to high levels of professional training. It began to evolve and to be put into practice during the 1940s by some of Kodály‛s colleagues and teachers working under his guidance.

The Concept embraces a philosophy; it came about mainly for the following reasons: – Kodály‛s harmony students at the Liszt Academy could not hear in their heads: he considered that Hungarian culture needed to be re-established following a long period of the dominance of German culture: concerts were not well attended – audiences, who did not understand the music, stayed away. At the heart of it was Kodály‛s belief that, “Music should belong to everyone,” because, “Music is the spiritual food for which there is no substitute . . . . there is no complete spiritual life without music . . . . there are regions of the human soul, which can be illuminated only through music.” The only way that music could belong to everyone was to make it accessible by teaching musical literacy throughout the schools from the nursery schools through to teacher training and conservatoire levels. Kodály thus set out to train the nation to become the audiences as well as the teachers and professional musicians of the future.

When the Concept emerged after the Second World War its success was seen as phenomenal. Consequently, since the ‘sixties‛, Kodály societies have sprung up worldwide and an international network of Kodály educators is held together through the International Kodály Society. In 1975 the Zoltán Kodály Pedagogical Institute of Music was opened in Kecskemét, Kodály‛s birthplace, offering a variety of courses and attended by people from all over the world.


These Principles are an integral part of the Kodály Philosophy and Concept. There is no special significance in the order in which they are listed here. Each can be likened to the spoke of a wheel, starting with music at the hub, and leading out to the ever expanding circumference of the wheel as the understanding of the language of music increases with progress.

1. Begin with the music – the joy of the experience. Music is taught in the way children learn naturally, experiencing the music first. Taking child development into account it is recognized that children do not learn through intellectual abstractions. Musical elements are absorbed unconsciously before being made conscious, after which they are practised, (through singing), read, written then reinforced further by being presented in new contexts: all is done in a carefully pre-determined pedagogical order.

2. Begin in the kindergarten. Although the concept can be adapted to apply to any age, the age from three to seven years are the most important. “. . the first steps are the same for everyone..” Z.K *

3. The first musical instrument is the voice. It is not possible to sing anything which has not first been imagined in the ‛inner ear‛. Singing is the proof that the music has been assimilated and understood. “A child who plays an instrument before he sings may remain unmusical for a lifetime.

That is why we encounter so many skilful pianists who have no idea of the essence of music” Z.K*

4. Relative Solfa is used. The solfa is the sound. It renders the sounds tangible and memorable; it expresses their relative pitch and tonal functions. It is never used as just ‛another verse‛ to a song. It defines melody, modulation, intervals, harmonic progression and chromaticism. It aids transposition.

5. Handsigns are a visual aid used to express the solfa. They provide the link between the sounds and the written notes. They have an effect of producing a reflex action in the vocal cords.

6. Notation is, initially, in rhythmic solfa, or stick notation. This is never completely discarded. Reading from the stave, with most do positions (there are seven) is learnt before fixed pitch is taught. Reading with G and F clefs and, later, the C clefs follow.

7. Music should be of good quality, – initially the musical mother tongue. It should be given time to take root before another musical ‛language‛ is introduced.

“Folksong is the school of good taste; those who develop a taste for what is good at an early age will become resistant later to what is bad”. ZK* The reverse is also true.

8. Pentatonic music is used in the early stages. The distinctive shape of the pentatone, d r m s l in which any of the sounds can be the final, makes it easier to acquire tonal orientation. Also, tunes without semitones are easier to sing in tune. The roots of much our common musical heritage spring from pentatony. From this starting point greater insight can be gained into modal music* and thus a better understanding of the historical development of music.

*this is why Relative Solfa is so named and used in this context rather than Tonic Solfa.

9. Intonation. Voice tunes with voice. Two different sounds sung simultaneously and tuned, acoustically, with each other enhance the perception of both their relative pitch and tonal functions. The sounds are re-created through the ‘inner hearing‛ and are not supposedly supported or prompted by a piano which has tempered tuning and a timbre with which it is not easy for young children to identify. Good intonation is vital in maintaining tonality. One of the main aims of the Concept, Musical literacy* – cannot develop without secure intonation and ‘inner hearing‛.

*The ability to ‘hear‛ what you see (read) and see (write) what you hear.

10. The rhythm of the music of a nation, (its folksongs) is borne of its speech rhythms. Rhythm is inseparably bound up with the other principles of the Concept. From the outset the elements of the music are taught within phrases, or motifs, never in single sounds or notes. The aim is for developing a sense of rhythmic continuity and to acquire a sense of phrasing. Mistakes in reading should not be allowed to interrupt performance; they can be corrected afterwards and will often, on repetition, self correct.

11. Two-part work in all its possibilities of combinations and permutations has high priority. Such things as ‘question and answer‛, performance in two parts simultaneously or antiphonally by two people or groups – this includes activities such as tapping the beat or an ostinato with another part, canon, independent parts; the possibilities of various combinations are endless. Ideally a minimum of three people is required – two to perform and the teacher to act as ‘referee‛. The practice of silent singing (in the mind) develops inner hearing. Two-part music making trains not only concentration, memory and awareness, it also trains the ability to listen polyphonically and the powers of co-ordination. This paves the way for the development of harmonic hearing leading to the study of form. „

Gillian Earl, 1998. Revised 2004

“If, through the reading of music, a child has reached a stage where he is able to sing a small masterpiece in two parts with another child, he has acquired a hundred times as much music as if he had thrashed the piano from sunrise to sunset. Many people are looking for the door to the treasury of music in the wrong places. They obstinately keep hammering on the locked gates and pass right by the open doors that are accessible to everybody.” *Zoltán Kodály 1882-1967.

Questions about the Kodály Approach

Kodály’s approach to music education is based on teaching, learning and understanding music through the experience of singing, giving direct access to the world of music without the technical problems involved with the use of an instrument. The musical material, which has proved to be the most potent and effective is a country’s own folksong material and the finest art music. Music is heard first of all and then learned using relative solfa, derived from John Curwen’s Tonic Solfa and rhythm solfa, inspired by and simplified from the French rhythm solfa system of Chevé, Gallin and Paris.

The Kodály approach to music education is child centred and taught in a logical, sequential manner. There is no “method” – more a series of guidelines. Tools used according to Kodály guidelines are relative solfa, rhythm names and handsigns.

Why is singing so important?

The singing voice is nature’s in-built musical instrument. We all have one, and Kodály educators believe it is the birthright of every child to learn how to express him/herself musically through the singing voice. Musical development can in this way begin from babyhood, with no one excluded on grounds of cost. Singing is a joyful and sociable activity feeding the spirit as well as the mind.

Singing gives direct access to music without the technical difficulties of an instrument. Singing and active participation is therefore the fastest way to learn and internalise music and to develop musicianship skills. It is also the proof of accurate internalisation of the rhythm and melody.

Through unaccompanied singing and active participation a student can begin to acquire skills essential to all musicians: musical memory, inner hearing, true intonation and harmonic hearing.

Kodály-trained instrumental teachers regard these skills as pre-requisites for instrumental study at every level. Teachers who spend time preparing musical material through singing and other musical activity find that pupils play successfully and musically when they reach the final stage of performing the music on their instrument.

Engaging in singing and Kodály oriented musical activities leads to a marked increase in the powers of concentration, a rise in levels of achievement and an increase in social harmony in and out of the classroom. Projects conducted by the Voices Foundation, who rely on teachers and trainers who are successful graduates of BKA educational programmes, have borne this out.

How does the teaching progress?

The approach is very effective with young children who will learn, unconsciously at first, all the musical elements, which musicians need, through playing and singing of musical games and songs of their mother tongue. As with language learning, it can happen very spontaneously and naturally when parents and carers sing to young children as a part of everyday life, especially if this singing approach is continued through Primary School.

At an appropriate stage these musical elements and skills are further developed by being made conscious and then, later, reinforced. In the process of reinforcing, new elements are introduced – again unconsciously by the teacher, thus continuing and developing the cycle further. Central to this work is the development of the Inner Hearing (the ability to imagine sound) though a potent combination of singing, rhythm work, Solfa and hand-sign work, stick-notation, memory development, part work, improvisation and so on.

But I am an adult!

Kodály’s approach to learning can be used to develop musical skills at any age. Anyone, whatever their age or ability may aspire to the highest levels of musicianship. The training starts with the simple and progresses to the more complex by logical steps and is one of the finest approaches to music education yet devised and therefore suited to all ages and stages of musical development. There are always adult beginners at the annual BKA Summer School and many come back year after year to extend their musical skills. As well as helping beginners to develop musicianship skills, the training also extends to those working at an advanced level.

But I am an instrumentalist!

When music is taught or learned using Kodály’s approach skills vital to advanced music making such as “inner hearing”, rhythmic co-ordination and harmonic hearing are strongly developed at an early stage. The approach is therefore relevant for instrumental teachers as well as class teachers and amateur and professional singers and musicians.

Through Kodály training teachers come to realise that all pupils need a core of musicianship training which is relevant to all instruments. Instrumental teachers therefore need to develop skills and material for musicianship work with their pupils, and to acquire repertoire and insights for applying this to their own instrument. Training is available in courses run by the BKA.

But I am not a singer!

You do not have to be a trained singer to enjoy or benefit from this form of music making. If you can draw breath, you can sing in such a way that the musical world will become accessible to you. The teaching and learning of music through the use of the singing voice enables the most direct of musical responses and provides the opportunity for musical understanding at the deepest level.

All students are taught to work with rhythm, structure and style in music – and to understand pitch by using a relative pitch system, which uses pitch syllables (e.g do, re, mi, fa etc) to develop keen aural discrimination. This is central to Kodály training and provides a stimulating and challenging means of improving personal musicianship and musical awareness.

But I am a non-specialist teacher!

It is possible to learn basic musical skills as an adult, which can then be transmitted in the classroom in singing games and other musical activities requiring only the use of your voice. The BKA runs courses and workshops throughout the year.

Download a simple pdf summary of the Kodály Approach by Lucinda Geoghegan 

Key elements of the Kodály Concept by Benjamin Westley

An essay submitted by Ben Westley as part of the Springboard HE1 Certificate Course 2010 – 11.

What are the key elements of the Kodály Concept and how has what you have learned and experienced affected your own musical development?

According to the Grove Concise Dictionary of Music, the ‘Kodály Method’ is:

‘A way of training children in music, devised by Zoltán Kodály, which is based on giving them a thorough grounding in solfeggio (using a ‘movable doh’ system), aimed at developing aural ability with emphasis on sight-singing, dictation and the reading and writing of music; a progressive repertory of songs and exercises, based on Hungarian folk music, is used.’ (p.430)

This essay will be an attempt to both elucidate the ideas within this definition and to consider some ways in which ‘Kodály’ is reconsidered and understood by music educators working across the world in the twenty-first century.

Zoltán Kodály’s (1882-1967) dissatisfaction with the state of Hungarian music education stemmed from his observations of students entering the Zeneakademia – the music college at which he taught in the 1900s – who appeared to have no genuine ‘feel’ for the music they were attempting to play. Further, they could not sing in tune or accurately sight-sing simple melodies, despite arriving at the academy as accomplished instrumentalists. Kodály felt that music must be felt internally before being played on external instruments and that the way to cultivate this musicality was through singing, which would provide a more direct experience of music than, for example, learning to mechanically play sequences of notes on a piano. Through singing, students would develop a better ‘inner hearing’ and consequently increased musical understanding and sensitivity.

Kodály (1952) claimed that keen pitch discrimination cannot be cultivated by students simply singing melodies in groups:

‘Those who always sing in unison never learn to sing in correct pitch. Correct unison singing can, paradoxically, be learned only by singing in two parts: the voices adjust and balance each other.’ (p.2)

A direct result of this conviction was an emphasis on the importance of choral singing in two and more parts. Although not mentioned in the Grovedefinition, choral singing must be viewed as an indispensable part of Kodály’s Concept for music education.

Kodály believed that authentic folk music in the mother tongue should be the material with which children’s experience of music should begin. Through the experience and study of folk songs and games, access would be given to examples of Western art music. Kodály was keen that a reclaiming of folk music should take place as children would become primarily aware of their musical and linguistic heritage: this, he felt, was necessary before moving onto ‘music’ in a wider sense, a movement from the known to the unknown.

Our original definition of the Kodály ‘Method’ hinted at the centrality of Hungarian folk music and this is a site at which a significant misconception about the nature of Kodály’s vision occurs. DeVries (2000), writing about his experiences as a primary music teacher in Queensland, Australia, explains how he regarded a Kodály approach irrelevant and ‘unrealistic’ for his students because of the way the curriculum was constructed:

‘It’s just too far removed from the sort of music (children are) hearing a lot of the time. English folk songs and… Hungarian folk songs… it’s just a little bit far-fetched for them.’ (p.169)

This understanding of Kodály education is glaringly incomplete. Kodály believed Hungarian children should be schooled with Hungarian folk song precisely because this was their cultural heritage: the idea was not to transmit Hungarian culture across the world. Australian children would need to sing authentic Australian songs so that they may equally become well-versed in their own musical heritage. The apparently misinformed Australian attempt to recreate the Hungarian model precisely was doomed to failure: after all, as deVries goes on to point out, Australian folk songs do not lend themselves to precisely the same sequence of musical skill development, as many are in 6/8 time (a rare meter in Hungarian music) and are not necessarily dominated by pentatonic melodies. It would be in keeping with Kodály’s concept that teachers working in countries with a significantly ‘different’ musical heritage to Hungary would need to work out their own priorities and progression of understanding with the material they have at their disposal. From this, access to other music, including art music, should still ultimately be possible.

Another charge levelled against a Kodály-based music education is the somewhat postmodern argument that the approach necessarily seeks to privilege Western music over music of other, potentially marginalised cultures. Mansfield (2002) writes of a ‘politics of representation’ (p.191) in which music education is viewed as incomplete if it does not seek to give equal access to music of all cultures and to view these as artistically equal. However, just as it would be illogical to teach a child a different alphabet (or a mixture of alphabets) before they learned their own, it makes little sense to begin a child’s musical education with only passing reference to their country’s musical traditions. Access to other ‘musics’ is by no means precluded by this: in fact, it is more than likely that access will be opened up through a general appreciation of ‘music’ that this progression – beginning from the ‘known’ – involves. Further, the ‘prioritisation’ of Western art music – of Handel, Haydn, Beethoven and others – provides a vehicle through which other music may be understood. Popular music is not studied because it is simply pedagogically less valuable for teaching about the features underpinning the whole of Western music such as harmony and form: the fact that the above-named composers’ works endure is surely testimony to their aesthetic – as well as their historical – significance. Rather, through such study an understanding of a much wider range of music (including popular music, if desired) is arrived at.

The approach Kodály advocated is thoroughly child-developmental in its design and, as such, follows a careful, logical progression. In the early stages, a bank of songs and related games is built up, largely from authentic folk material, which gives children a thorough ‘feel’ for the rhythms and melodic nature of their musical cultural background. A lot of time is spent working on concepts of pulse, rhythm and pitch before more advanced work on pitch names and literacy.¹ Once children are ‘enculturated’ into these ideas and can relate to and use the terminology accurately, they have established necessary foundations for future learning in music.

Games are vital throughout, as the movement activity links together the visual, auditory and kinaesthetic elements that result in a deeper understanding of the material and development of musical memory and, consequently, the ‘inner hearing’. Teachers make conscious certain elements (such as rhythm or pitch names) only after the actual element has been experienced directly in different song contexts. Once made conscious, the new concept is reinforced through practice and children become able to apply their learning independently; for example, through improvisation, dictation or sight-singing. Having progressed in the earlier stages from a basic understanding of ‘high’ and ‘low’, children will learn songs involving solfa pitch names, initially so and mi. They will learn physical handsigns to support and reinforce their experience of these pitch names and positions before learning ways of notating these and then recognising the interval between the pitches as a minor third by singing solo and chorally and through listening exercises. This will be carefully built up over several years and the result will be a deep understanding of these musical elements that would not be derived from technical instrumental study alone.

Kodály methodology can be seen as an amalgamation of best practice from different systems of music education. Key elements are modified French rhythm names (for example, ta and te-te or ti-ti to represent rhythms commonly known as crotchet and quaver) which match the duration of each rhythmic element; relative solmisation (using the syllables do, re, mi etc. for degrees of the scale in which the position of do, the tonic or ‘home note’, can move depending on the key or tonality of the music being sung) and handsigns relating to each pitch syllable. Combined, these elements result in a powerful ‘tool kit’ for the teaching of music and the physicality of the actions involved ensures deep musical understanding and memory development.

It must be remembered, however, that these are the teacher’s tools: the overarching aim in employing these tools is thorough musical sensitivity and understanding. Writing a Marxist-informed critique of Kodály teaching, Benedict (2009) argues that the ‘strict and unmindful’ use of solfa and handsigns that she perceives constitute ‘Kodály teaching’ makes Kodály work an exclusive and self-perpetuating system that is detached from other forms of music making in education. Her assumption is based, however, on the idea that solfa and handsigns are an end in themselves, rather than intermediary tools for developing musicianship.² A system that prioritises such tools might well be detached and exclusive, but Kodály methodology is simply not this: as Gillian Earl (1992) writes, ‘handsigns should indicate legato singing,’ (p.79) not a robotic punching out of pitches devoid of musicality. Benedict’s misunderstanding of the place of musicianship tools in Kodály-based training highlights well the problems that can occur if this type of education is viewed as a strict ‘Method’, rather than a flexible set of guidelines to develop high-order musical understanding: this results in a similar problem to the scenario evidenced in the Australian example above, and is perpetuated by narrow or incomplete definitions of the Kodály Concept in seemingly authoritative texts.³

Benedict’s confusion about the real purpose of Kodály-based teaching means she perceives it as esoteric and élitist. In fact, Kodály’s hope was that with musicianship development through singing – using the tools described above – the people who would most thoroughly benefit would be the future audiences of music, not just the élite performers. His claim that ‘music should belong to everyone’ has perhaps become the maxim of Kodály educators in their drive to raise the standard of musical appreciation and literacy. So, in fact, Kodály’s principles can much more convincingly be read as serving the needs and interests of the many and not, as Benedict’s politicised agenda would have us believe, the few.

It is difficult to give an overview of Kodály’s concept without making reference to the historical context in which he was working. Hungary had been politically and culturally oppressed for centuries and the emphasis Kodály placed on national folk material is clearly a nationalistic move, seeking to empower the Hungarian people. This also has an ethical dimension, however: by uniting the people through a common cultural pursuit, music is seen as a ‘socialising agent’ (Gifford 1988, p.123) and the choral experience becomes one of social solidarity and collective action for the common good. This interesting idea gives rise to the question of linguistic and cultural diversity in modern times: if there is indeed an ethical dimension to social singing based on cultural solidarity, what implications does this have for today’s teachers? While we may find ourselves in a more ‘global’ context, it is perhaps more important than ever to seek ways of connection and inter-cultural understanding and exchange. Someone teaching a class made up of children from different cultural or linguistic backgrounds must work hard to find authentic material from the different cultures. Rather than having a detrimental impact on children from the dominant culture, music can be seen as offering a way to unite rather than divide and this is surely in keeping with Kodály’s ethical imperative.⁴

My own musical education seemed to involve three seemingly unconnected activities: playing, listening and an abstract and unconnected thing called ‘theory’, a list of facts to be memorised and which I had to learn from a book. Discovering the Kodály approach and working on my own musicianship has led me to realise that these elements are all much more fundamentally connected. For example, my sight-reading has improved as a result of developing my inner hearing through singing and the use of solfa syllables to highlight the tonal function of each note within scales. My hearing and understanding of musical intervals is much improved in both listening and playing and I find it hard to believe that these were never ‘taught’ in the course of a musical education which went up to diploma level.

¹ This is important, as terminology used in musical discourse relating to, for example, pulse as ‘heartbeat’ and pitch as involving ‘high’ and ‘low’ are ultimately metaphors: music does not literally have a heart that beats in the way that humans hearts do, and we talk of high and low pitches that do not necessarily involve an object moving physically up or down (a cellist’s fingers, for instance, might be perceived as going down the fingerboard towards the floor as the pitch goes up). Children therefore need a significant amount of time to absorb these difficult ideas on a practical level.

² Just as Cecilia Vajda criticises Bernarr Rainbow’s understanding of ‘Kodály’ as ‘only solfa and hand signs.’ Vajda (1991, p.73). The point is neatly summarised by Kodály himself: ‘The more ardently we use sol-fa at the beginning, the sooner we can abandon it.’ (quoted in Kocsár 2002, p.29)

³ Such as the Grove definition with which this essay began.

⁴This idea is seemingly evident in a number of authoritative British Kodály-related publications such as Waterhouse et al (2007) and Vinden and Vinden (2008). A cursory glance through these books reveals a wealth of non-native material for use in musicianship classes, including music from Japan, Ghana, Poland, Virginia and Congo and elsewhere, as well as English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh material.

Benedict, C. (2009). “Processes of alienation: Marx, Orff and Kodály.” British Journal of Music Education vol XXVI no 2 pp 213-224
Choksy, L. (1974). The Kodály Method: Comprehensive Music Education From Infant to Adult, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall
DeVries, P. (2000). “Learning how to be a music teacher.” Music Education Research vol II no 2 pp 165-178
Earl, G. (1992). “Letter to the Editor.” British Journal of Music Education vol IX no 1 pp 79-80
Finney, J. (2000). “Curriculum stagnation: the case of singing in the English National Curriculum.” Music Education Research vol II no 2 pp 203-210
Gifford, E. (1988). “An Australian rationale for music education revisited: a discussion on the role of music in the curriculum.” British Journal of Music Education vol V no 2 pp 115-140
Houlahan, M. and Tacka, P. (2008). Kodály Today: A Cognitice Approach to Elementary Music Education, New York: Oxford University Press
Kocsár, I. H. (ed.) (2002). Zoltán Kodály: Music Should Belong to Everyone, 120 quotations from his writings and speeches, Budapest: International Kodály Society
Kodály, Z. (1952). Let Us Sing Correctly, Boosey and Hawkes
Mansfield, J. (2002) “Differencing music education.” British Journal of Music Education vol XIX no 2 pp 189-202
Naughton, C. (1996) “Thinking skills in music education.” British Journal of Music Education vol XIII no 1 pp15-20
Rainbow, B. (1991). “Letter to the Editor.” British Journal of Music Education vol VIII no 2 pp 183-184
Rainbow, B. (1990). “The Kodály Concept and its Pedigree.” British Journal of Music Education vol VII no 3 pp 197-203
Sadie, S. (ed.) (1994). The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music, Bath: MacMillan
Stock, J. (2003). “Music education: perspectives from current ethnomusicology.” British Journal of Music Education vol XX no 2 pp 135-145
Vajda, C. (1991). “A reply to the article by Bernarr Rainbow ‘The Kodály Concept and its Pedigree’.” British Journal of Music Education vol VIII no 1 pp 73-76
Vinden, Y. and Vinden, D. (2008). Songs for Singing and Musicianship Training: Introducing the Kodály Concept of Music Education London: Kodály Centre of London
Waterhouse, C. et al. (2007). How Can I Keep From Singing! Songs and musical activities from around the world for 8-13 year olds London: British Kodály Academy

The Kodály Experience by Cyrilla Rowsell

This article by Cyrilla Rowsell first appeared in Libretto, the journal of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, in May 2003.

‘How many of you know anything about Kodály?’

The group of around 35 students on the CT ABRSM course look blank, except for one brave soul who lifts his hand and volunteers, ‘It’s all that handsign stuff?’

This is representative of the general response from any group of instrumental teachers faced with the same question. However, 1½ hours later, I see many happy, inspired faces and I leave with the sound of other questions ringing in my ears – ‘WHY have I never heard of this before?’ ‘WHY isn’t this taught in all schools?’

So how did this approach come about?

Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) was a deep-thinking man who became increasingly concerned about music education in Hungary. He found that his harmony students at the Liszt Academy, whilst technically proficient, could not hear the music in their heads. He felt that a musician should have a well-trained ear, intelligence and heart as well as well-trained fingers – and that the student would eventually have problems if the latter raced ahead of the others (which, in my experience, is often the case!).

Kodály believed that ‘Music should belong to everyone…music is a spiritual food for which there is no substitute…there is no complete spiritual life without music…there are regions of the human soul which can be illuminated only through music.’ He was impressed by the Galin-Paris-Cheve movement and by the work of John Curwen; he realised that rhythm names and solfa were powerful tools with which to develop musical literacy and incorporated these into his overall concept. During the 1940s many of his colleagues and students began to put his ideas into practice and developed a methodology which can be used from birth or before (Kodály said, ‘Music education begins nine months before the birth of the mother’!)to high levels of professional training – conservatoire and beyond.

Kodály identified three stages of learning: unconscious experience, making conscious and reinforcement.

In other words:

Preparation, Presentation and Practice

Young children do not learn through intellectual and theoretical abstractions. We would not teach a child to read who has not yet learned to speak – and yet we often try to teach music in this way. I remember my very first piano lesson, at the age of six. I was shown a symbol and told, ‘This is a crotchet. It lasts for one beat.’ If a child has no experience of beat or pulse this is useless information!

In Kodály lessons children learn many songs and rhymes, initially by imitation. Gradually what they have assimilated unconsciously is made conscious and children learn both the appropriate vocabulary to describe their experience and the symbol which represents it. In this way, musical literacy is taught in a practical and logical sequence. Kodály teaching is structured so that students progress from the simple to the complex in a series of logical steps. The steps are very small (‘Children learn best that which they already know’) so that success is guaranteed. Success breeds confidence and the desire to learn more.

The music used should always be of the best quality, initially one’s mother-tongue. Kodály felt that ‘Folksong is the school of good taste…those who develop a taste for what is good at an early age will become resistant later to what is bad.’

Most of the repertoire consists of natural children’s singing games. Many of these originated in the street and playground – a repertoire which, sadly, many children do not know today. Children of all ages love these games; it is very gratifying to see mature, streetwise 11-year olds revelling in them and, through them, being allowed to be children again. At a later stage, composed songs and art music are also used – but always, the musical knowledge comes from the song material.

The voice is the primary instrument used in Kodály training. Singing has a profound effect upon the child’s physical, social, emotional and intellectual development and is the most direct way of making a musical response. Not only is this instrument free and portable, but because it is part of our bodies anything learned through singing is learned more deeply and thoroughly. Learning through an instrument is an external skill, as the pupil makes something else make the sound; singing, an internal skill, is deeply personal as YOU make the sound. Singing is also vital for developing that essential part of a musician, the inner hearing. It is not possible to sing anything which has not first been imagined in the inner ear; therefore singing proves that the music has been assimilated and understood. Kodály felt very strongly about this:

‘A child who plays before he sings may remain unmusical for a lifetime. That is why we encounter so many skilful pianists who have no idea of the essence of music.’

Songs used in the early stages have a small range and simple rhythms. Many of the games and activities encourage solo singing, which is helpful for the teacher’s assessment as well as breeding confidence in the child.

‘Growlers’ gradually learn to pitch accurately by singing on their own and imitating the teacher’s voice. Incidentally, I have never found anyone (child or adult) who is unable to pitch a falling minor third, which is the first interval to be made conscious through solfa (‘soh-me’) – although I was challenged o­nce by a four year old whose natural pitch for this interval was the E-C# below middle C! (He is now 10, in my choir and sings like an angel!)

Pentatonic music is used initially as it is easier to sing with good intonation without semitones. I find children who have a good pentatonic grounding learn the diatonic notes quickly and easily and their intonation remains good. Two-part work is an important part of the training; voice tunes with voice and the natural tuning enhances the pupil’s perception of relative pitch and tonal functions.

Children first experience pulse, then rhythm; they are taught to differentiate between the two before they are introduced to rhythm symbols and rhythm names. An awareness of pitch (moving higher, moving lower, staying on the same pitch) is developed before the children begin solfa training. New pitches are gradually introduced and the children learn songs in various tonesets. Solfa is learned with accompanying handsigns, which provide a physical link with the sound heard and produced. Solfa not only expresses relative pitch but also the tonal function of each note. Handsigns are a powerful tool in that they can also be used for the child to read from, thus quickly and easily reading new music or recognising known material. Music is always dealt with in phrases or motifs, never in single sounds or notes; this develops rhythmic continuity and a sense of the shape of the phrase.

Children learn to read and write music initially with stick notation (the rhythm with solfa symbols underneath) and then on the stave. Stave reading is firstly done without a clef so that the children learn spatially the positions of the intervals without having to worry about sharps or flats. Gradually pitch names are introduced and eventually pupils learn to read in all seven doh positions.

Kodály’s aim was to teach musical literacy to all. He saw literacy as the ability to ‘…hear what you see and see what you hear…performance reveals whether the instrumentalist understands what he is playing.’

‘Aural training’ is an aspect of instrumental teaching which I know worries many teachers. Fitting it in to a half-hour lesson already crammed full is difficult, and several teachers I know feel ill-equipped to teach it as their own pianistic skills are lacking. However, I perceive that maybe the major problem is that many teachers do not know HOW to teach aural awareness. It would appear that aural is not TAUGHT, only TESTED.

I cannot have been the o­nly child who dreaded having to stand by the piano and sing. I found aural petrifying and difficult; I could not sight-sing accurately and ‘O’ Level chord analysis and dictation were impenetrable, terrifying mysteries. As a result, I grew up with the unshakeable belief that I was ‘not musical’. When I discovered the Kodály way of teaching in my mid-20s (having no musical qualifications other than Grade 7 piano and a very poor ‘O’ Level) it was a true road-to-Damascus experience. It was a total revelation to me that here was a way I could learn to sight-sing, write dictation, train my musical memory, hear and understand intervals and chords.

What would a teacher do for a child who is having trouble learning to read? He/she would allocate more time to the child, trying different strategies in order to make a breakthrough – not say, ‘Never mind you can’t read, dear; let’s make sure your maths is extra good instead’. But this is precisely what happened to me – make sure your pieces and scales are good to compensate for the poor mark you’re going to get for your aural! Kodály felt that ‘before we rear instrumentalists… we must first rear musicians’. How many more musicians we would rear if all children who are going to learn an instrument had a minimum of a year’s Kodály training before they started, and continued this training alongside their instrumental studies!

Children who are taught Kodály thoroughly and systematically become joyful, rounded, confident musicians – not just instrumentalists.

Kodály tapped into the essence of music and of pedagogy: ‘If, through the reading of music, a child has reached the stage where he is able to sing a small masterpiece in two parts with another child he has acquired a hundred times as much music than if he had thrashed the piano from sunrise to sunset. Many people are looking for the door to the treasury of music in the wrong places. They obstinately keep hammering on the locked gates and pass right by the open doors that are accessible to everybody.’

How many of us – how many of our pupils – are still hammering on locked gates?

Cyrilla Rowsell worked as a Primary class teacher for 11 years. During this time she became increasingly interested in the Kodály approach, and attended many courses, including Summer Schools in Britain and Hungary. She gained the BKA Advanced Musicianship Diploma with Distinction in 1991, and since then has taught for the BKA at Summer School and o­n part-time Elementary and Intermediate Musicianship Courses. She now teaches music at Primary level in Bromley and for the Guildhall’s Junior String Training Programme. She gives courses and workshops for organisations including the Associated Board, the Dalcroze Society, and for various schools and LEAs. Cyrilla runs a 150-strong junior age choir, whose most experienced members recently performed at the Royal Festival Hall in the Music for Youth Choral Day.

The Importance of Inner Hearing by Becky Welsh

Essay written by Becky Welsh’s as part of her double bass studies at Trinity College of Music. Reproduced here with her kind permission.

‘Discuss the Importance of the Inner Hearing to a musician and describe the ways in which Kodály musicianship develops this.’

In my opinion developing our inner hearing is o­ne of the most important and valuable things we can do as musicians. The ability to inner hear enables us to develop our musicianship skills; in particular our listening, aural and ensemble playing or singing skills. Music education through the Kodály method develops inner hearing skills through singing and associated exercises. As the Kodály method is mostly taught through use of the voice, this immediately means that our inner hearing is being accessed and therefore developed, as the two are inextricably linked.

As I understand it, inner hearing is basically the concept of being able to hear notes or music inside our heads without the need to play or sing. If a musician is looking at a piece of music they should be able to accurately hear how it sounds inside the head (if their inner hearing skills are good), with no need to play or sing it. Included in this, is the ability to pitch intervals inside the head, thus making sight singing much easier. This skill is developed predominantly through singing and the use of the voice, which is strongly emphasised in the Kodály method of teaching.

For a performing musician the development of inner hearing is extremely important. Not o­nly does the ability to inner hear improve sight reading skills, it is also essential for orchestral or ensemble playing. o­ne of the most important things an orchestral musician has to do is not o­nly to be able to play as a section, but also o­n a larger scale, they must be able to blend with the rest of the orchestra. This must be achieved through good intonation, as well as solid rhythm. Without being able to hear in our heads how the music should sound, it is impossible to play it in a professional way. If o­ne or more members of the orchestra are not using their inner hearing skills, the chances are they will be out with the rest of the orchestra, either rhythmically or harmonically. This means that the overall performance would lack polish and finesse. It is therefore essential that each member of the orchestra (or any other group of musicians i.e. choirs, chamber groups, strings quartets) is aware of what they are playing and how it is sounding at all times, and they can achieve this through inner hearing how the music should sound.

In addition, as a solo performer, inner hearing is also a very valuable skill. In my opinion, through inner hearing we can achieve relative pitch. This means we are able to hear accurately how a particular note should sound, with regard to intonation. I find that as a string player it is especially important to have a good awareness of pitch. As we are required to ‘find’ the notes o­n our instrument it is necessary to hear what we are aiming for. There would be little point in trying to find a note o­n a stringed instrument if we did not know how it should sound. If our inner hearing (and therefore relative pitch) is well developed, it is much easier to play with good intonation, and therefore to play more convincingly as a solo performer.

Zoltan Kodály developed a system of music education in order that inner hearing could begin to be developed in children from a young age. His theory was that if children began their musicianship training using his method from an early age, by the time they reached adulthood the system would be so ingrained in them that it would be second nature. Sightreading or sightsinging would not be a struggle, nor would difficult enharmonic keys. Memorisation would be taught from an early age, first through simple folk songs, so that later it became a natural progression of learning music. Pitching any note or interval is also simplified, as the musician will be able to hear inside the head how it should sound.

The musical education system that Kodály used and taught consists of many different elements. Predominantly the system is taught through the use of the voice. This is because Kodály believed that the natural way children express their musical ideas is through the voice. Therefore many of the ideas taught in the Kodály method involve singing, for example singing games, sightsinging and improvising. The use of the voice automatically accesses the inner hearing skills, so through the development of singing, inner hearing is also being developed. In recent studies there has been increased musicality in the children taught using the Kodály method.

There are many skills taught in the Kodály approach, the majority of which start with singing (and are therefore linked with the development of inner hearing). A large part of the Kodály way of teaching involves learning songs, preferably at first by ear through a ‘call and response’ system. Later they can be sung with the music, then without music, or played o­n an instrument (in the case of our classes, the piano). The songs are taught using a system of naming the notes, or Solfa. Each note of the scale has a name, and as the ‘do’ is variable according to the tonic note of the key of the piece, the scale is the same regardless of the key. This means that there is a much clearer idea of how the music should sound, as it is simplified. For example, it is understood that the distance between ‘do’ and ‘so’ is always a perfect fifth. This idea is also important for the development of inner hearing because it simplifies the pitching of intervals. It does this through the use of Solfa. This means that when singing any interval, the singer has a guide to the sound. The interval is no longer just two notes, it has names, and owing to the concept of the variable ‘do’ or ‘home note’, regardless of the key of the piece the interval has the same names, and therefore the same sound. This should mean therefore, that the singing of the interval is no longer a guess as it is the same, however complex the key of the piece may appear to be. This means the singer should be able to ‘inner-hear’ the pitches of the notes before singing them.

In addition to this, each note of the scale has a handsign that corresponds to the Solfa name. Handsigns are useful for pitching and understanding of tonal relationships, because they are a way of visualising the pitches that are being sung. Again, inner hearing can be developed using handsign exercises. If the teacher or a member of the class is to demonstrate a song purely through the handsigns corresponding to the notes, the class would have to inner hear the notes being shown in handsigns in order to be able to recognise the piece. This exercise is invaluable in the development of inner hearing as absolutely no ‘real’ notes are being used so the inner hearing is forced into use.

As well as the notes being simplified through use of the Kodály method, the rhythms are also made clearer. This is achieved through the use rhythm names, so not o­nly do the notes have names, the rhythms do too. This idea of naming notes or rhythms gives children a much clearer indication of what they have to sing or play as they have something to identify sounds with. It simplifies the theory of music because to say the word ‘teh-teh’ is much easier for a child to understand than saying ‘the rhythm is two quavers’. This idea is used for all the basic rhythms and rhythmic patterns, so there is always a simple way of explaining the rhythms of a song.

Once the basic concepts of notation and rhythm have been introduced and mastered there is much scope for development of these ideas. As the pupil becomes more advanced many more ideas and variations can be used. Singing and playing or singing and clapping songs in canon is an extremely useful exercise that is used. This is because it requires multi-tasking and good co-ordination, and it also means the pupil has to isolate each part (by inner hearing how it should sound) in order to separate them. As well as this, multiple hearing is encouraged through practice of the Kodály method. The class will often sing o­ne part at the same time as another part is being played by the teacher for musical dictation by the class. This means that as well as inner hearing the part that is being sung the pupils must also commit to memory for dictation the part that is being played.

Once the pupils are more advanced, part-singing becomes a fairly important aspect of learning music though the Kodály method. Singing in canon is a strong feature of the method, as well as part-singing taken from musical extracts, such as the singing of Bach Chorales or other four-part songs. The concept of singing more than o­ne part at o­nce encourages good intonation in the singers, and as there is more than o­ne part going o­n at o­nce, intonation has to be even more solid than when singing just o­ne line. This strongly encourages listening and ensemble skills within the group, as well as developing the need for the singers to inner hear their parts.

Another important skill taught through the Kodály method is musical dictation. The teacher plays or sings a melody and the pupil must notate it (often the rhythm is given, so the focus of the exercise is o­n the melody). Starting with simple dictations, confidence can be built so that more complex melodies or ideas can be introduced later o­n. This helps enormously to develop inner hearing because in order to notate the music, the pupil must first be able to hear it in the head. o­nce the pupil can hear the melody in the head, they have the option to repeat the melody sufficient times in order to notate it correctly. Without be able to inner hear, the melody would need to be played by the teacher several times. As the dictations become more and more complex, the inner hearing skills are developed to be able to hear the more complicated melodic or rhythmic ideas.

In conclusion it can be said that the learning of the Kodály method is essential to develop our abilities to inner hear, and the ability to inner hear is essential to our musicianship. Therefore, in my opinion, learning Kodály (preferably from a young age) is essential to us becoming well-rounded musicians. It enables us to access our inner hearing through singing, as well as developing these skills through regular practice of exercises taught in the Kodály method.


Choksy – The Kodály Method

Please note: Becky’s original bibliography contained a number of web addresses which have subsequently been changed or are no longer live. Only those links which remain live are included here (September 2015).

The Gifts That Keep Giving by Sandra L. Mathias

Keynote speech given at the 2005 IKS Symposum by Sandra L. Mathias

Good morning, symposium participants, students, guests, IKS Board members and our gracious British hosts. It is a bit daunting to be the final speaker, following the outstanding keynote addresses that we have heard all week. I wish to express my gratitude to the British Kodály Academy for inviting me to speak at this symposium. It is truly my honor. I hope that you might find some meaning in the words and thoughts that I will be sharing with you.

This keynote speech focuses on my perception of not one, but several of Kodály’s inspirational gifts that, I feel continue to inspire 21st century music educators, students, and parents.

During our time together this morning, I want to explore five of Kodály’s inspirational gifts: his music, his writings, his student legacy, his dreams, and his philosophy. I will present some of Kodály’s words, along my own thoughts. I will also share with you the thoughts of music educators, students, and parents, who feel that they have received one or more of these gifts through their musical experiences.

The gift of ‘music’ will focus on a few of Kodály’s choral compositions, which serve as a rich resource for conductors and aesthetic ‘food’ for performers and listeners.

The gift of ‘writings’ will focus on Kodály’s written words that inspire readers, confirm teachers’ thoughts, and provide insights to us for the future.

The gift of ‘students’ will focus on the lineage of Kodály’s students and how they have disseminated their thoughts on this philosophy around the world, and have, unknowingly, developed an international ‘family tree’ of Kodály music educators.

The gift of ‘dreams’ will focus on Kodály’s courage to dare to dream of a musically literate society of a sensitive and feeling people, who would reflect their culture.

The final gift of ‘philosophy’ will focus on Kodály’s idea of creating a way of thinking about teaching music. This philosophy gives students and teachers a framework upon which to create their curriculum.

Let us first look at Kodály’s gift of music…

I was first introduced to Kodály’s gift of music when I sang ‘Wainamoinen’ in the women’s chorus at the Kodály Center of America in the summer of 1983. His ability to create a beautiful marriage of music and text in his choral pieces has a special quality that lifts the music off the page and into the hearts of its performers and listeners. For the past 20 years, I have had the privilege to share Kodály’s gift of music with young singers as they have ‘unwrapped’ and discovered the excitement while singing some of his special pieces such as – See the Gypsies, Ladybird, Dancing Song, Mid The Oak Trees, Ave Maria, Egyetem Begyetem, Psalm 150, and Christmas Dance of the Shepherds. I can easily recall how excited a group of these young singers was to see the original score of ‘See the Gypsies’ in the Kodály Museum in Budapest. They nearly burst into song in the middle of the museum! Years later, it is meaningful to me to hear students reminisce about the pieces they sang in choir. They said:

See the Gypsies was my favorite of all. I loved all the contrasts within the piece, especially the changes in tempo from the A section to the B section and the harmonies.”

“I used to love to let my voice fly away on my soprano part in Ladybird“.

“I loved singing Egyetem Begyetem in Hungarian, more than in English. Everything fit together and it was actually easier!”

I believe that Kodály’s musical gift to these young singers will never be forgotten. His music will continue to inspire. Kodály’s choral music has a unique quality that gives shimmering beauty to voices, and, satisfaction to the soul of its singers and listeners. This gift of music will only live on into the future if we continue to introduce it to our singers and program it on our concerts.

The gift of Kodály’s words, as found in some of his writings and speeches…

When I first read Kodály’s articles on Music Education in the book, Selected Writings, I thought that he must have wandered the United States listening to all our music educators express their frustrations over the lack of financial and philosophical support for music in the schools, the insufficient class time for music, and the general state of the arts in the country.

In his article: Music in the Kindergarten: he writes: “…the frightening lack of music in our curriculum, indeed the definite anti-music tendency, is gravely detrimental to the education of the nation, too.” He continues by discussing the crucial necessity of singing songs of one’s language and nation to give the child a sense of self and soul. He says: “…most of the texts are completely alien to the emotional world and way of thinking of children…, they do not start from the soul of the child and his view of the world, but impose upon him the author’s own ‘self’.” He further wrote: “Hungarian public opinion does not take schools seriously enough. It believes that school and life are different things. But school, and even the kindergarten, stands for real, full-blooded life. Anyone who is hurt there may not recover from the hurt till the day of his death. And if we sow a good seed in him, it will flourish all his life.” (Selected Writings, p. 148.)

And from his article, A Hundred Year Plan, he wrote: “It was in 1680 that Miklos Misztotfalusi Kis had the idea that every Hungarian should learn to read. It took 250 years for it to come true. With music reading, we shall, perhaps, achieve it in a shorter time. But what curse is upon us that always makes us do things wrongly at first?”

Why is it always the incompetent people that force their way to the scene of action, spoiling things to such an extent that twice as much work is needed to put things right again than would have been required to do them well at the first go!” (Selected Writings, p. 160)

For me, I now realize that teachers, all over the world face similar attitudes and situations. Kodály’s words give us inspiration for the daunting task that faces each one of us as we follow our dreams to educate the soul of our students through the music of their heritage and beyond. For as Kodály wrote: “the purpose of music is not that it should be judged, but that it should become our substance. Music is a spiritual food for which there is no substitute: he who does not feed on it will live in spiritual anaemia, until death. There is no complete spiritual life without music, for the human soul has regions, which can be illuminated only by music”. (Music Should Belong To Everyone – p. 51 from What is the Purpose of School Music Societies)

As a college professor, I assign many of Kodály’s articles for students to read in preparation for their classwork. As they begin to enter their professional semester, they read Who is a Good Musician?. As they begin creating curriculum and lesson plans, they read Music in the Kindergarten. Before they begin making an instrument, they read the small, one page article, I Made My First Instrument Myself. They comment in class on how appropriate Kodály’s words are to them today. His words always reinforce their decision to enter the field of music education.

The gift of Kodály’s words lets us know that we are not alone in our quest to create musical cultures. We are grateful that he put down his thoughts that today inspire us not to give up our goals. How fortunate we all are to be able to be inspired when we open a book containing Kodály’s words. It does not matter how many times we may read the same article, we always receive food for thought and a sense of conviction for our dreams and purpose. As books, such as Selected Writings become less and less available, we are indebted to Ildiko Herboly Kocsar for compiling quotations from Kodály’s writings and speeches in the IKS publication: Music Should Belong to Everyone. If Kodály were alive today, I think we all would want to express our gratitude to him for this gift of speeches and writings. As we read them, they make us feel as though he is alive, teaching us through his word.

The gift of students…

I imagine that Kodály did not realize how he would ‘father’ an international ‘family tree’ of music pedagogues. Beginning with himself and the 13 students from his first composition class at the Liszt Academy, a worldwide tree of extending limbs and branches has grown and continues to grow.

Sustaining the tree from a sturdy trunk is Kodály himself. Extending out on to large supporting limbs we find the first generation of pedgagogues. Next comes another firm limb of the second generation. This is followed by a third limb of the third generation. on the branches of these limbs we find offshoots of locations where Hungarian master teachers have travelled to plant seeds of the Kodály philosophy. on the branches to the North, we find Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Norway. On the branch bending South, we find Australia, South Africa, and South American. On the branch reaching out to the East, we find Korea, The Phillipine Islands, Taiwan, Japan, and China. On the branch reaching out to Central Europe and the West, we find Poland, Italy, Greece, France, Spain, England, Scotland, Ireland, Mexico, The United States, and Canada.

Teachers from each generation have freely given to their students, who have, in turn, become teachers who continued to give freely to the next generation of their students, and so on. This sharing of knowledge and expertise has created a world-wide dissemination of the Kodály philosophy. Teachers throughout the world have become excited using ideas learned from their teachers. This gift of students, which spawned this international pedagogical ‘family tree’, will continue to grow on into the future. Because of the grounding of the philosophical ideas put forth by Kodály and his early students, this tree will not wither and die, but remain ‘evergreen’, reaching up and out to touch people in all corners of the world.

The gift of a dream…

Kodály’s dream was to create a Hungarian musical culture in 100 years. As mentioned earlier, since it took 250 years to create a Hungary that could read, Kodály believed it would take less time to achieve music reading for all. The means: as stated by Kodály would be:

  1. making the reading and writing of music general, through the schools.
  2. the awakening of a Hungarian musical approach in the training of both artist and audience.
  3. The raising of Hungarian public taste in music and a continual progress towards what is better and more Hungarian.
  4. Making the masterpieces of world literature public property, to convey them to people of every kind and rank.

Kodaly said: “The total of these means will yield the Hungarian musical culture, which is glimmering before us in the distant future.”
(Selected Writings, p. 160)

Kodály concludes his article on A Hundred Year Plan by stating: “We cannot prophesy, but if the principle of expert tuition comes to be realized in practice by 1968, that is to say a hundred years after the birth of the primary education act, it may well be hoped that by the time we reach the year 2000, every child that has attended the primary school will be able to read music fluently… This, however, will only be an external sign of what will surely have developed by then and will rightly bear the name of Hungarian musical culture.” (p. 162, Selected Writings)

Because Kodály dared to have a dream of creating a musical culture in 100 years, we are inspired to carry his dream along with our own, to every nation, city, school, and classroom. We also, dream of musical cultures in our own countries. We believe as Kodály did that “music multiplies the beauty of life and all its values.” (speech for the Inauguration of the New Building of the Kecskemet Singing School).

He further wrote: “A man who has talent is required to cultivate it to the highest degree so as to be of the greatest possible use to his fellow-creatures. Every human being is worth as much as he can turn to the advantage of mankind and to the service of his country. Real art is one of the most powerful sources for the uplifting of mankind and he who renders it accessible to as many people as possible is a benefactor of mankind.” (Who Is A Good Musician?)

Kodály further helps us shape our dreams for our own countries with these words: “Each nation has a rich variety of folk songs well suited to teaching purposes. If selected and graded carefully, they furnish the best material through which to introduce musical elements and make the children conscious of them. It is essential that the material used should be musically attractive. In some countries, the outdated system is still in use, which employs dry, lifeless exercises for children, which the children hate and very often together with them they also hate the music lesson, and finally, music. If children do not look forward with thrilled expectation to the music lesson, no result is to hope for, if they do not feel refreshed and enjoyed, all labor is lost. It is our firm conviction that mankind will live the happier when it has learned to live with music more worthily. Whoever, works to promote this end, in o¬ne way or another, has not lived in vain.” (Music Should Be For Everyone, pp. 69-70).

I believe that this gift to dream sustains us all in our work every day as we strive to create a musical culture in our own situations.

The Gift of Philosophy…

Over the past 25 years, I have come to realize why Kodály gave us a philosophy for teaching music and not a method to teach music. A philosophy is a way of thinking. This philosophy is a way of thinking about teaching music. A philosophy has basic tenets that provide a foundation for our thinking to develop. Kodály tells us to “teach music and singing… in such a way that it is not a torture, but a joy for the pupil; instill a thirst for finer music in him/her (a thirst that will last a lifetime).” (Children’s Choirs).

He tells us to begin with music of the child’s musical mother tongue, develop music literacy, use the most natural instrument – the voice, and follow the ideas of child-development with age appropriate songs and games that will lead students from the known to the unknown.

Upon this philosophy are built the pedagogical ideas of Pestlazzi, Kestenberg, Piaget and others. Teachers plan kinesthetic, aural, and visual activities around the unknown to enable students to experience it before labeling it. Teachers learn to lead students to discover the unkown through the known. Teachers guide students through practice of the new knowledge from familiar material to unknown material and on to sight-reading, improvisation, and composing. The concepts and skills of music are woven throughout the process in a joyful, positive spirit, enabling the student to be motivated and inspired and develop a love of music.

I asked some singers, parents, and teachers who were attending a summer course, to share some of their thoughts on the Kodály philosophy. They have given me permission to share those thoughts with you.

First, from 2 young singers who are 14 year-old twins from my children’s choir in Ohio: “The Kodály philosophy has been part of our lives since we were 8 years old. When we were in second grade, our elementary music teacher taught using the Kodály philosophy. Our education in this philosophy continued throughout our middle school grades and continues today in the community children’s choir that we sing in. It has had a great impact on how we think about and read music. The Kodály approach goes beyond mimicry and teaches the musical makeup of a song. Instead of listening to a song sung and then repeating it until learned, the Kodály philosophy allows a singer to understand the music through intervals and form. Throughout our years in choir, we have sung several pieces arranged by Kodály. Not only do these compositions stress using the inner ear, they also introduce the singer to Hungarian folk music and culture. Overall, the Kodály philosophy has increased our musical literacy to an extent difficult to achieve with any other technique.”

From their parents: “Our twin 14 year-old daughters have been taught through the Kodály philosophy since second grade. They have always loved to sing, and music class was always a joy for them. They also began traditional piano instruction at this time. We do not know whether the Kodály teaching or the piano instruction is alone responsible for their musicianship. We believe that the combination of the two has made them strong musicians. We do know however, that their ability to read vocal music is far superior to their peers who have not had the same instruction. We are grateful to have had this instruction given to our daughters. Their lives and anyone who hears their musical talents benefit greatly from the teachings of Zoltan Kodály.”

From young teachers:

From a young American teaching in China: “The Kodály training has given me a wonderful system and plan to my teaching. .I can truly see my students improve from year to year and enjoy singing more and more. This approach has made all the difference in my teaching.”

From a young man teaching in a parochial school in Ohio: “I know that the Kodály philosophy is making me a more competent individual.”

From a young teacher in the Columbus City Schools:
“It is much more fun and easier to teach music using the Kodaly philosophy! Taking the known to discover the unknown makes sense to me, as well as my students. Now, my students understand rhythm because it is not made into a math equation, but comes from the music.”

From a young high school teacher in Ohio: “The Kodály philosophy has made all the difference when it comes to my own reading and musicianship. I went from looking at new music as an obstacle, to seeing it as a fun challenge. Teaching from the philosophy makes me truly feel like I am teaching my students something that they can hold onto in the future, instead of just teaching them songs they soon forget, with no real meaning.”

From another teacher in the Columbus City  Schools: “This training has defined how I teach. Before I began these classes, I taught from a music textbook and always sang with CD’s. I was unsure of what to teach and when. Now I teach with my own voice. I have a curriculum sequence that makes sense and my students provide all the music (no CD player). I also feel that I am teaching with much better repertoire.”

From a high school teacher in Illinois: “The Kodály philosophy has helped my students realize their full potential as independent musicians. They better understand their abilities to learn music on their own, while still maintaining an enjoyment of singing.”

From more experienced teachers…

From a middle school teacher in Georgia: “Because of the Kodály approach, I look at singers less restrictively. Before, I was convinced that only the ‘best singers’ should be in my choir. Now, I appreciate more accuracy than natural talent in singers. I try to help everyone who seeks me out. I definitely use stronger literature of better quality. This will be a life-long quest (a labor of love) rather than a mere career.”

From a teacher in a city school system: “I have become a more organized teacher with clearly defined musical objectives. These objectives are now mine, not something handed to me – they are developmental, sequential, and best of all, they work! My children are finally reading and writing music and loving it.”

From a teacher in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio: “The Kodály philosophy changed my life completely. I now have goals and strategies for my teaching. I have a sequence to teach by, a method to use that allows my students to grow to unbelievable heights! I never knew or had enough faith that they could learn so much about music.”

From a teacher in rural Ohio: “My students have benefited greatly from this approach to teaching music. They have become owners of the music.”

From another teacher in rural Ohio: “For thirteen years of teaching, I had jumped from one workshop to another, trying to find a way to teach general music effectively. By a course of luck (or God’s grace), I ended up in a summer Kodály course. All of a sudden a light bulb came on in me, and I realized I was learning about a sequential approach to teaching music. When I returned to my teaching after a second summer of training, I discovered that my students had retained what they had learned the year before. I am proud of my teaching now and I will never teach a different way.”

From a junior high band teacher: “This Kodály training has made me aware of how valuable singing is in any music setting, even band! I am now concentrating more on my preparation of pieces my band will play. This training re-ignited (and reaffirmed) my quest to help every child become a lifelong musician who loves music. My musicianship training has forever opened my ears. These three years of learning have truly been a spiritual experience… to be with so many teachers and students of all ages, who love music and have a passion for sharing the beauty of music with all mankind. This has been a life-changing experience!”

From a teacher in Colombia, South America: “I come from a country full of talented people and loving music teachers who, without any clue about how to develop an effective music program, try their best, in order to transport a passion and love for music, to their students. I wish many music teachers in my country could have the great opportunity to find the amazing pathway of the Kodály philosophy, and after enough training, be able to transform their teaching. My own professional life has a ‘before Kodály’ and an ‘after Kodály’. I wish the International Kodály Society would put their eyes on Colombia in order to give to my country and our children the Kodály philosophy.”

And, lastly, from a teacher at the United Nations School in New York City: “I received the essential words of the Kodály philosophy ‘music is for everyone” in a setting of beautiful music making and dedicated master teachers working to pass the craft on to a new generation of music educators. The year was 1978. I carefully listened to the tales, which chronicled the vision of Zoltan Kodály in Hungary. The best music for children, of course…but I was equally captivated by the possibility of ‘teachers’ choruses’ and ‘workers’ choruses’. Not just the elite… but live, active music making for all. Some 26 years later, in addition to my teaching, I direct women’s choruses, which fulfil my own desire to connect my personal calling to what happened in Hungary years ago. In these choruses, housewives, engineers, students, diplomats, teachers, hairdressers, professional musicians, and local women who never finished high school come to sing great music together. If I only heard ‘the words’ of the Kodály philosophy, it would never have taken root in my teaching practice or the continuous maturing of my own imagination and artistry. I have heard and watched what live music making does to folks, who would never have believed that this experience was intended for them. Music is for everyone. The words are ever new and compelling as we now work to pass the craft on to the next generation. The year is 2005.”

I am grateful to these people for sharing their thoughts.

This gift of philosophy still inspires us and future generations to believe and strive to create a better life for humanity – to know that we are doing something for the human soul in the face of the cheapening of life all around us. What we have to offer is priceless, yet costs so little to disperse.

Kodály’s gifts of music, writings, students, dreams, and philosophy do keep giving – to students, parents, teachers, artists, and audiences. How fortunate we are to have been recipients of these gifts. How fortunate we are to be able to pass them on to others.

If Zoltan Kodály were here today, we all would want to stand and offer him a special ovation for these gifts that truly do continue to inspire. Thank you.


Herboly-Kocsar, Ildiko. Music Should Belong To Everyone. 120 compiled quotations from Kodály’s writings and speeches. International Kodály Society, 2002.

Kodály, Zoltán. The Selected Writings of Zoltán Kodály. Boosey & Hawkes, 1974.

NOTES: With special gratitude to the Hungarian master teachers at the 2005 summer course of The British Kodály Academy in Leicester, England, for their assistance in preparing the first, second, and third generation of Hungarian master teachers for the pedagogical ‘family tree’.

Kodály’s Legacy: The Power of one – The Power of a Few – The Power of Many by Dr. Jerry-Louis Jaccard

Keynote speech given at the 2005 IKS Symposum

Welcome to the other G-8 Summit! We are here to discuss Music, which for the cultural anthropologist, Claude Lévi-Strauss, was “the supreme mystery of human knowledge. All other branches of knowledge stumble into it; it holds the key to their progress” (Claude Lévi-Strauss quoted by Gardner, 1982, 91). This suggests to me that if we could get the music part of our world right, then we could probably easily get the peace part right. We, as humble musician-teachers, are the peacemakers of our world.

Have not you been on the school playground lately? Have not you reached out and helped two belligerent little boys put their world back right again? And did you not bring them together to unite in singing something beautiful in music class? Are not many nations of our world behaving like such boys on the playground who need the softening effect of sweet music in their hearts? So here we are gathered together in perhaps one of the most important international meetings of the world in order to discuss how to unify mankind through something beautiful called music. We are asking the leaders and followers of the world – if only they were listening! – to join us in an exploration of the supreme mystery of music. United in such a cause, there could only be peace, for that mystery will keep us all so busy that we won’t have time to fight! As our friend and colleague, László Dobszay, has reminded us, music is a mirror of the order of the Universe that “reflects order” and “creates order” within us (1992, p. 83). And, from Zoltán Kodály, “Souls cannot be reshaped by administration. But souls reshaped by beauty and knowledge are easy to administer” (Kodály, in Bónis, 1964, 147). You can see how we already have some concrete solutions for what is troubling the world.

We are gathered in this hall today most likely because we have personally benefited from the gifts of one the great minds and souls in the history of music, Zoltán Kodály. His legacy to us is constructed upon five pillars:

  1. A vision of the role of music for the individual, society and the world
  2. The heartfelt belief that music is for everyone
  3. The relentless quest for musical literature of enduring value
  4. A nationwide example of Music for Everyone in action
  5. His example of personal integrity

Kodály was indeed a remarkable individual – the power of one – whose lifework continues to motivate us. The inheritance we have accepted from him is a work yet unfinished. We are the power of a few through whose hands his work is being continued. That is the raison d’être of this Society. My presentation today intends to explore how the strength of these pillars continues to increase with the passage of time. I declare today that we are standing on a firm foundation, we are not alone in our position, and our cause is just. “We are standing on the threshold of a new era, in which music will play a greater part than ever before” (Kodály in Ádám, 1944, 1971, p. vii).

A Comprehensive Musical Vision…

We live in the fickle Age of Possession, where price is confused with value, outward appearance is judged instead of interior depth, immediate gratification is substituted for lasting rewards, and a fulfilled life is equated with having lots of things. How slow we moderns are to remember lessons understood millennia ago. When his grieving people built Beowulf’s memorial mound, they wisely decided to bury out of sight and out of mind the hoard of gold he had wrested from Grendel, the dragon:

Into the hill then did they the rings and bright sungems

And all such adornments as in the hoard there

The war-minded men had taken e’en now;

Beowulf’s treasures let they the earth to be holding,

Gold in the grit, wherein yet it liveth,

As useless to men as e’er it first was

Unlike gold, genuine music cannot be possessed as a material commodity. It is to be lived and enjoyed as a condition of the human spirit. And that is why there is such a tension between what we are trying to share and the world’s general disinterest in it or commercial corruption of it. We live in a world that has forgotten how to live a musical life.

The cause is confusion about what constitutes lasting value. Kodály proclaimed: “Powerful sources of spiritual enrichment spring from music. We must spare no effort to have them opened for as many as possible” (in Bónis, 1964, p. 120) and “Music is not a recreation for the elite, but a source of spiritual strength which all cultured people should endeavour to turn into public property” (in Szabó, 1969, p. 4).

We almost daily confront those who would like to see music disappear from the curriculum. According to Alfred North Whitehead, the attempt to develop barebones intellectuality by economizing the curriculum only results in “a large crop of failure” (Whitehead, 1929, 1957, p. 40). He sees this happening because “you cannot, without loss, ignore in the life of the spirit so great a factor as art” (Ibid). For Whitehead, “the claim for freedom in education carries with it the corollary that the development of the whole personality must be attended to” (Ibid). Without undue outlay for material resources it would not be difficult to ensure that our schools “produce a population with some love of music, some enjoyment of drama, and some joy in beauty of form and colour” in their general life (Ibid, p. 41). Otherwise, ” …our concentration o¬n technology threatens to push to the periphery of education those aspects which nurture the feelings and the spirit…” (Dobbs in Bachmann, 1991, v).

Along those same lines, Keith Swanwick said “This is where the ultimate value of music lies. It is uncommon sense, a celebration of imagination and intellect interacting together in acts of sustained playfulness, a space where feeling is given form, where romantic and classical attitudes, intuition and analysis meet; valued knowledge indeed” (1994, p. 40)

“Of what value is imagination?” micromanagers might ask. The answer came from the American 9/11 Commission after three years of investigating how the U.S. intelligence services could have missed the possibility of such an attack: “This was…  above all, a failure of imagination” (MSNBC, 2004, npn). Make no mistake; their report was not about placing blame but about fixing a societal problem, the inability to think in many directions at once, to foresee consequences, to follow a theme to its ultimate cadence. Who knows but what some well-taught sol-fa lessons on the Art of the Fugue could rectify that weakness! “Man without music is not complete, but only a fragment of a person” (Kodály, 1966, p. 74).

Music is for Everyone!

Kodály made it clear that “Music must not be the exclusive property of the few, but should be accessible to everyone. This is the supreme idea, which, for several decades, many of us have tried to find ways and means to put into practice. This we have tried to do through children” (Szabó, 1969, p. 4). And, “every sound child with good eyes and ears is able to learn music and should learn music. The ancient Greeks made us believe that” (in Herboly-Kocsár, 2002, p. 3). These were bold declarations in their day and it is now very gratifying to observe how recent discoveries continue to verify and uphold them.

Educational psychology has shifted to a more constructive, developmental view of individual musical capacities that support Kodály’s implication that all people are naturally predisposed to music. For example, Frederick Turner reports how “Behaviorism as a tenable explanation of human psychology has completely collapsed; human beings do appear to have a nature after all. Studies of newborns show that we come into the world with a formidable array of predispositions” (1995, p. 20). Moreover, those predispositions include music.

[C]ross-cultural and neuropsychological studies of the arts reveal that the classical genres of the arts – pictorial representation, musical scale and tonality, poetic meter, narrative, and so on – are built into our makeup as human beings and cannot be lightly ignored by a culture without damage to its young and a loss of meaning and value for its adults. A natural classicism is emerging, which implies greater canons of value in the arts” (1995, pp. 20–21)

Kodály’s colleague, Hungarian piano pedagogue Erna Czövek, wrote that “…Virtually everyone can be useful in some capacity in the field of music, it is a matter of finding where…  one must know the music, know the pupil, and work towards and coordinate the essence of each” (1979, p. 90). The answers are in the student, the teacher and the music, or, as Howard W. Hunter reminds us: “’The learning process lies within.’ Five little words. Learning is a drawing-out, not a pouring-in process. The word ‘education’ has its roots in the Latin word educere – to draw out” (in Wadhams, 1986, p. 9).

Others, too, have determined that musicality is a universal human trait. Psychologist Helmut Moog defined musicality as the “ability to experience music… not a ‘special ability’ but… the application of general abilities to music” (1976, p. 45). Victor Zuckerkandl elaborated on this theme:

[M]usicality is not the property of individuals but an essential attribute of the human species. The implication is not that some …  are musical while others are not…  [M]usicality is not something one may or may not have, but something that …  is constitutive of man…  Music is the concern of all, not of a privileged elite, and if musicality represents an asset, it is not the prerogative of a chosen few, but an endowment of man as man (1973, pp. 7–8).

You can see that the power of one has indeed become the power of a few as Kodály’s singular voice has been joined by other great ones. The conclusion can only be as Kodály stated:

Outstanding talents will always be rare, and the future of a musical culture cannot be based o¬n them. People of good average abilities must also be adequately educated, for in the near future we must lead millions to music, and to this end we shall need hundreds if not thousands of good musicians and teachers (in Szabó, 1969, p. 33).

Musical Literature of Enduring Value…

Kodály’s mandate for the education of musical taste and the discernment between good and bad music flies in the face of today’s anchorless moral relativism. It is not a popular stance to take. Throughout history, popularity has rarely had anything to do with rightness. As the folk proverb goes: “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread, ” especially where such great laws as govern musical taste are in effect. These great laws are the grand themes of Kodály’s lifework: “Feeding on art results in spiritual health. Those who develop a taste for what is good at an early age will become resistant later to what is bad” (Szabó, 1969, p.4). “The elementary schools will fulfill their purpose when they teach not only how to read but also how to distinguish between good music and bad music” (in Herboly-Koscár, p. 79). “Perfect morality always projects true art, while the cult of trash is always an indication of moral unrest” (p. 81). “Strictly speaking there are only two kinds of music: good and bad” (p. 87).

There are many musical trends and voices in the world around us. We must be careful not to back the wrong horse where there is so much at stake for our young ones. Frederick Turner wrote “One of the fundamental assumptions of avant-garde art is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This is a denial of “the classical position, that beauty is a reality in itself” (1995, p. 16). It is also a denial of spiritual values, for “The way that art changes society is through hope …  [H]ope uplifts us. Hope involves an imaginative estimate of possibility, an intellectual leap into the future” (pp. 28–29). Curiously, that future leap is anchored in the past, for the original music of society is folksong. “Folkmusic is not a class art. As into a reservoir, many springs have flowed into it during the course of centuries. There is no layer of humanity, no experience, which has not left its trace in it. It is the mirror of the people’s soul” (Kodály in Vikár, 1969, 5).

I never thought I would see the day when a pop star would reinforce our cause, but while waiting to see the dentist one day, I read an astonishing article in a magazine. The singer Natalie Merchant, in describing her new CD release The House Carpenter’s Daughter, told of her discovery of traditional music and its influence on her new CD:

“I had been doing research through the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts [at Lincoln Center], and I’d listened to a lot of old field recordings. I also took a course in American folk music… People have told me, ‘I don’t know this music but I feel like I do and I feel like I should.’ This is the foundation of the music we listen to today and we’re drifting further away from it…” (2003, p. 10).

Whitehead stated another great law of learning related to values inherent in the microcosm of folksong: “The best education is to be found in gaining the utmost information from the simplest apparatus… ” (1929, 1957, pp. 9–10). Kodály applied that law in this way: “Logical teaching methods demand that we should start from what is simple and proceed towards what is complex…  Our ear must first get accustomed to simple musical experiences before it can pursue more intricate forms (in Szabó, 1969, p. 5). It is easy to recognize how completely folksong fulfils these requirements. The “simplicity” of folksong makes a direct connection to the “complexity” of masterworks in three ways: 1) “A good folk song is a perfect masterpiece in itself” (in Herboly-Koscár, 2002, p. 23); 2) Folk music and art music are not “two different businesses; during the whole history of music, they never missed finding each other’s voice” (VIkár, 1993, p. 4); and 3) “[M]usic history and folk music are such twins that they really belong together [and] complete each other. All research into music history sources end up in folk music, and all the peculiar national styles can be traced back to folk music” (Vikár, 1969, p.5) or, as Kodály said it, “The national musical culture of every people rests on a healthy relationship between folk music and composed music” (Kodály in Bónis, 1974, p. 222, edited for clarity).

I have come to understand another reason why folksong and its companion customs, celebrations, rituals, dances and games are so important to education. They simply constitute the natural way human beings make and learn music! They are the genuine product of mankind making music intuitively. How was that astounding Old English epic, Beowulf, handed down to us? All three thousand one hundred and eighty-two lines of it were handed down for centuries by oral transmission before ever being written down. Like all other epic poetry, they were most likely sung and danced, if the great linguist, Edouard Sievers, was correct (1912, p. 36). Neuroscience is discovering why we tend to make music, meter and rhyme out of everything, because we all seem compelled by “the deepest tendency or theme of the universe,” including “complexity within simplicity,” “rhythmicity,” and “hierarchical organization” (Turner, 1995, pp. 218–219).

However, the most compelling argument for seeking out the very best music of our civilization is because of the lasting impression it makes deep within the individual, especially during the impressionable years we call childhood. An experience of Gustav Eckstein’s, a renowned animal physiologist at the University of Cincinnati, illustrates this point. He had spent eleven years researching the relationships and behaviors of a family of canaries through several generations of their existence. The birds were so accustomed to him that they were not kept in cages, but allowed to fly free in his laboratory. Dr. Eckstein loved music and often listened to symphony broadcasts o¬n the laboratory radio or played the piano in his laboratory, both to which the canaries would enthusiastically sing along in their own way. He also noticed how the canaries had developed a habit of poking seeds through holes in the window screen to feed sparrows on the outside. This caused Eckstein himself to fall into the bad practice of opening the screen once a day to throw out leftover birdseed to the waiting sparrows. He later wrote “I was aware of the danger, because you could see how the canaries were getting interested in being out there with the sparrows.” one night, someone left the screen completely open and almost all of the canaries flew out. “What was I to do?” wrote Eckstein. “At least it seemed good sense to start playing the piano, and this I did.” At first, nothing happened. on the second day, he noticed that the canaries were coming nearer. Eventually, the oldest male canary flew in and began singing “as if to burst his throat” after which all but one of the others came back inside. This was no easy feat, for in order to come back into the laboratory, the canaries had to pass through the sparrow’s territory, “and that took great courage” (Eckstein, 1942, pp. 31–33). I find this to be a powerful metaphor for why we want our children to learn the best music of our civilization, to take the high road of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. We cannot control all of the musical input into a child’s life, but we can make sure they are regularly instructed so that their view is of the highest peaks of the art; we have to give them something to come back to even if they are temporarily enticed away by socially “in” music or succumb to the fickle trendiness of those who profit from it. Another proverb: “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.”

A Nationwide Example of “Music for Everyone!”
Let us first set the record straight about what Zoltán Kodály did not do. He did not create a method! His vision was that teachers would solve that problem individually based on their own deep understanding of music as a body of literature, their equally deep grasp of child development, and their particular circumstances. His onetime student, László Dobszay, warned that “Anyone who is hopeful that Kodály evolved a pedagogical system or ‘manufacturing process’ by which the ideal music education infallibly comes about, has no idea of Kodály’s way of thinking and is in for a big disappointment” (Dobszay, 1972, 16). Instead, we see Kodály himself researching, observing and waiting over the years, nudging certain teachers this way, others that way. He encouraged individual problem solving and re-directed those who wandered into easier and less effective pathways. We must also not forget that Kodály was himself a teacher, much appreciated for helping young composers find their own styles and voices.

The American journalist, Frank Smith, once observed how “People who do not trust children to learn – or teachers to teach – will always expect a method to do the job” (1992, p. 441). Herein lies another danger we must continually confront; there are those whose aim is to politicize music education by placing noble ideals into tidy methodological boxes in order to maintain power and control over national systems. Sometimes our own teachers, blindsided by the glitter of commercialism, succumb to this siren call of possible fame and fortune. We are again reminded of Beowulf’s lesson as expressed in another English folk proverb: “All that glisters is not gold.” What seems to be innocent enough can often be musically deadly in the wrong hands. Frank Smith calls specifically prescribed methods “the systematic deprivation of experience” (p. 441). Some of our colleagues avoid this trap by publishing well-researched and organized collections of song materials, quality choral arrangements, and curricula. A curriculum organizes a body of music into an interrelated flow of activities and elements for teaching and learning, but then it becomes up to teachers to deliver the curriculum. This is where a teacher’s musicianship, insight into the students, intuition and creative spontaneity must work the magic of true child-sensitive musical education. Such things cannot be written down for others to copy. They must be found deep inside the intelligence and character of the teacher. As John Curwen observed, “No written method can provide for all cases. Each particular class is a study in itself” (Curwen, 1875, 27).

Erna Czövek was even more adamant about the matter:

“The teacher-to-be should get to know the music and the child and then himself develop the proper connection between them in the name of human values and morality. Personal tricks can be devised in a moment of inspiration; but to copy these or any kind of personal habit without conviction and concoct a teaching method out of them for one’s own use is not ethical.” (1979, p.49).

What Kodály did do was to musically mobilize an entire country even though Hungary was under the harshest of political and economic duress. And even though we hear sad reports of decreases in time allotted to music instruction in some Hungarian schools, we cannot deny what has been accomplished. We also know that Hungarian music education was always and still is a work in progress in which, as in all countries, the best and the worst teachers can be found. But several facts remain: Hungary did implement a music curriculum that is nationally unified in content but locally diversified according to the individual teacher. Hungary did develop a successful folksong-to-masterwork singing musical culture. Hungary did create a multi-tiered, childhood-through-adulthood path for musical instruction that is available to almost all of its citizens. Hungary did successfully address the issues of music teacher-education for a complex, multi-tiered system. And Hungary did develop a national choral singing culture. And Hungarian musicians and teachers are in demand around the globe. These monumental achievements stand on the shoulders of Bartók, Kodály, and hundreds of musicologists, composers, conductors and teachers who learned how to work together toward a common vision. We may stand aside and criticize all we want about the details, but the fact remains that here is something worth emulating. only when the world beats a path to our own national doors just for the purpose of learning how our music education works will we have license to criticize. As an aside, I have to tell you about meeting a Hungarian Communist Party official in 1980 who, with obvious pride, told me about the “brain drain” we Americans were causing in Hungary because of “all the teachers we were inviting” to teach in our Kodály courses!

Another great Hungarian music education achievement was the creation of the Singing Primary School. Kodály took his inspiration for this from the Greek and Medieval “humanities” school concept (1966, p. 74). After the first such school proved that devoting more time to music would not diminish achievement in other subjects, many more everyday singing schools proliferated. With music as the central subject in a correlated curriculum, these schools directly fulfilled Whitehead’s vision: “The solution which I am urging is to eradicate the fatal disconnection of subjects which kills the vitality of our modern curriculum. There is only o¬ne subject-matter for education, and that is Life in all its manifestations” (1929, 1957, p. 7).

In all of the Hungarian music education efforts, so much has had to depend on the teachers, and that is why authentic Kodály teacher-education programs are rigorous. We all recognize that the Hungarian musical establishment has had to produce a different kind of musician-teacher than we are generally used to seeing in the public schools. Erna Czövek, one of the chief architects of Hungarian piano pedagogy during the Kodály years, articulated the essence of that difference:

“It is not enough for the teacher of the arts to have a feeling for art and teaching; he must be knowledgeable, too. First and foremost he must be able to recognize and follow the essence of a work: the consciously planned combinative work of the artist… the way the work has been formed… What grips us in art is the creative artist’s form-giving power, by means of which he conceives the whole work as an entity and fits it together logically from the sequence of details… a Beethoven sonata or Bartók’s music in the way the whole is built up out of the movements, and the movements take their shape from the interplay of the motives without the slightest break. The macrocosm and microcosm lie hidden in all true art. The work’s totality consists in the interplay of motives and their logical interconnection. It is the primary task of music teaching to get this across”. (1979, p. 13).

Zoltán Kodály: An Example of Personal Integrity

We have now arrived at discussing the power of many in today’s global community. We can only collect such an army one-by-one based on the power of one, our own example. Yet another folk proverb: “There are only three ways to teach: example, example, and example.” The essence of Professor Kodály’s leadership seems to be that he duplicated his influence over and over without duplicating himself. This he did by delegating tasks and responsibilities to students and colleagues. This was the power of one becoming the power of a few and eventually the power of many within his country.

Notice that the power of many is totally dependent on the power of one. Each of us here today is that power of one in our own sphere of influence. It may not be our foreordination in life to be a national hero like Kodály, but what does matter, is that we do make a difference whoever and wherever we are. Our solitary example will generate the power of a few and they will eventually accumulate the power of many. Marjorie Pay Hinckley, one of the honoured mothers of our State of Utah said: “We all have a responsibility to make a difference, to be an influence, to lift someone” (2003, npn.).

Sometimes we will feel that we are not making any progress. All great people with great ideas experience discouragement. When those times come, the following story about a university literature professor will help:

Many years ago I interviewed one of my college professors for the school newspaper. He was a gentle giant of a man who rescued baby birds flung from their nests during West Texas windstorms, picking them up from the sidewalks and carrying them home wrapped in a handkerchief in his shirt pocket… “If you write about that,” he said, “Be sure to say not to do it. They always die.” His eyes were misty. “Then why do you do it?” He said nothing, gesturing helplessly. “Are you going to keep doing it?” He nodded, looking almost shamefaced. “He can’t help himself,” said a brisk voice from behind me. It was his wife, a tough, smart woman. “He always thinks ‘what if this time I can save one.’”

Her husband was George Carter, a literature teacher. He and many like him are unsung heroes, on the front lines of a battle against relativism and nihilism. They profess the truth. They insist that aesthetic principles are more than mere personal tastes. [They have] an unfashionable attachment to the oft-maligned canon…  [T]hey get relegated to lower-level courses, where they try to teach incoming students to recognize good literature—and this is excruciatingly difficult for the student whose tastes have been formed by one poor fiction after another, and who has been assured all his life that his opinion on anything is as valid as anyone’s.

…They rescue as many baby birds as they can (Wittingshire, 2005, npn, edited for brevity)

Like George Carter, YOU are the power of one. If you rescue only two baby birds, then together you are the power of a few. In due time, the three of you can become the power of many. Of course it will be hard work. Again from Alfred North Whitehead:

All practical teachers know that education is a patient process of the mastery of details …  There is no royal road to learning through an airy path of brilliant generalisations …  The problem of education is to make the pupil see the wood by means of the trees (1929, 1957, p. 7).
Never underestimate what you, the one, can do. Never underestimate how much more we, the few, can accomplish. As Margaret Meade, the eminent cultural anthropologist said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” My dear friends and colleagues, we are that “small group of thoughtful, committed citizens.” We are the power of o¬ne and the power of a few. Let us become many more!

Dr. Jerry-Louis Jaccard
Vice-President of the International Kodály Society
Brigham Young University School of Music
Provo, Utah, United States of America

References and Bibliography

Adám, J. (1971). Growing in music with moveable do – A manual of systematic vocal instruction. New York: Pannonius Central Service, Inc. (Originally published in Hungary in 1944 as Módszeres énektanítás a relativ szolmizáció alapján).

Bachmann, M.-L. (1991). Dalcroze today: An education through and into music. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Bónis, F., ed. (1964). The selected writings of Zoltán Kodály. New York: Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.

Curwen, J., Rainbow, B., editor. (1875, 1986). The teacher’s manual of the tonic sol-fa method. Clarabricken, County Kilkenny, Ireland: Boethius Press.

Czövek, E. (1979). Music and the child. Budapest: Zenemúkiadó.

Dobbs, J.P.B. Preface in Bachmann, M.–L. (1991). Dalcroze today – An education through and into music. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Dobszay, L. (1972). “The Kodály method and its musical basis.” Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientarum Hungaricae, 14, pp. 15–33.

Dobszay, L. (1992). After Kodály – Reflections of music education. Kecskemét, Hungary: Zoltán Kodály Pedagogical Institute of Music.

Eckstein, Gustav. (1942). “The Flight into the Night” in Friends of Mine. New York: Readers Club of New York.

Gardner, H. (1982). Art, mind and brain: a cognitive approach to creativity. New York: Basic Books, Inc., Publishers.

Heaney, S. (2000). Beowulf – A new verse translation. Bilingual Edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc.

Hinckley, M.P. (2003). Unpublished Devotional Address. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University.

Hyde, D. (1998). New-found voices: Women in Nineteenth-Century English music. Third edition. Aldershot, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Kodály, Z. (1966). Mein Weg zur Musik – Fünf Gespräche mit Lutz Besch (My path through music). English translation by Jerry L. Jaccard [2002], publication pending. Zürich, Switzerland: Peter Schifferli Verlags AG «Die Arche».

Kodály, Z. in Herboly-Kocsár, I., ed. (2002). Music should belong to everyone. Budapest, Hungary: International Kodály Society.

Marchant, Natalie (2003). Interview re CD “The House Carpenter’s Daughter” in Woman’s Day, July 8, p. 10.

Mason, L. (1854, 1967). Musical letters from abroad. New York: Da Capo Press.

Moog, H. (1968, 1976). The musical experience of the pre-school child. Translated by Claudia Clarke. London: Schott & Co. Ltd.

MSNBC News broadcast on 22 July 2004.
Sievers, E. (1912). Rhythmisch-melodische studien (Melodic and rhythmic studies). Heidelberg, Germany: Carl Winter’s Universitätsbuchhandlung.

Smith, F. (1985). Reading without nonsense. Second edition. New York: Teachers College Press.

Swanwick, K. (1994). Musical knowledge: Intuition, analysis and music education. London and New York: Routledge.

Szabó, H. (1969). The Kodály concept of music education. New York: Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.

Turner, F. (1985). Natural classicism: Essays o¬n literature and science. New York: Paragon House Publishers.

Turner, F. (1995). The culture of hope: A new birth of the Classical Spirit. New York: The Free Press.

Vikár, L. (1969). Folk music and music education. Paper presented at the Dana School of Music Teacher Training Workshop, Boston, MA.

Vikár, L. (1993). Interview with Jerry L. Jaccard at the Hartt School of Music, University of Hartford, West Hartford, Connecticut.

Wadhams, R.A. (1986). Course disclosure and related information – Curriculum and instructional Science 603. Provo UT: Brigham Young University.

Whitehead, A.N. (1929, 1957). The aims of education. New York: Free Press.

Willems, E. (1975). La valeur humaine de l’éducation musicale. Bienne, Switzerland: Éditions «Pro Musica».

Wittingshire (March 9, 2005).

Zuckerkandl, V. (1973). Sound and symbol volume two: Man the musician. (Translated by N.Guterman). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Only art of intrinsic value is suitable for children by Michalis Patseas

The choice of music literature appropriate for education according to Kodály’s principles.
Keynote speech given at the 2005 IKS Symposum.


The Kodály Concept is the major music pedagogy philosophy that the 20th Century has bequeathed to the 21st. Methods must be based on deep philosophical roots and must provide fresh answers to old and new questions. We must find scientific and persuasive arguments for our ideals. ‘Well-organized music lessons in the curriculum of general education’ is not automatically accepted as essential when MP3, Fame Story and Eurovision Junior appear to have realized the “Music must belong to everybody” motto. “Musical mother tongue” cannot easily be defined when Anglo-American pop music is the dominant sound. The “music specialist” does not appear to be a necessity when the average teacher can handle a CD player and can conduct a discussion about music appreciation. The choice of music literature is not an easy thing in the era of music abundance. The motto“only art of intrinsic value is suitable for children” has been pointed out as “politically incorrect”. For lots of people the weekly Top Ten, the Grammy Awards and MTV is the epitome of music democracy and we are music ayatollahs! How can we fight against similar arguments? By making clear that there is no real choice without knowledge. By acquiring a vast knowledge of the literature, in order to be able to pick the very best of those that are appropriate for a specific class at a certain moment. Finally by believing in the force of the ‘intrinsic value’ of quality music.

Full text:

Dear colleagues,

My main duty is to analyze some of the principles to which the music teacher should adhere in order to decide what to teach. In so doing, we are going to travel through some of the basic principles of Zoltán Kodály followed sometimes by my humble remarks.

1. Kodály and the 21st Century…

Zoltán Kodály was a genius but nevertheless a child of his time. He received the best high-school, university and music education that a young citizen of the Austrian Empire belonging to the Hungarian “upper middle class” could get. He was nourished with the best ideals: classical antiquity, humanism, Christian faith and the awakening of the Hungarian Nationalism. He was born and raised in a multi-national and multi-cultural empire; he lived his most productive years surviving the birth of the Hungarian nation-state, one socialist revolution, one fascist dictatorship and two world wars and he finally managed to put into practice his long-planned ideas during the communist regime. The Hungarian people honoured him. All the Hungarian governments had to pay respect to him, praise him and decorate him, although none of them trusted him because he never conformed. He was loyal to the nation and not to any party or politician!

The last quarter of the 20th century was full of rapid political, social and economic changes. Changes occurred also in the various fields that concern our work. There is a whole new field called “Education Sciences”. “Music Education” is becoming the newest branch, scattered among music universities and academies, departments of music studies, as well as music departments in teacher-training colleges and universities. New musicological branches emerge such as “Social Musicology.” The latter together with new ethnomusicology branches deal with “Popular Music” as well.

In this turmoil, we were the luckiest. The Kodály Concept has been a very good philosophical background. We have inherited some ideals that I think can be valuable for the future generations as well, provided we constantly find new scientific and persuasive arguments for them. For me, the Kodály Concept is the major music pedagogy philosophy that C.20th has passed to the 21st. Proving my claim is a very good theme for a doctoral dissertation, so I will only try to share some of my thoughts with you.

2. Music is of universal value…

“Music must belong to everybody” has been accomplished. Music is everywhere: It comes through radio, television, stereo, Walkman, MP3, ringtones in mobile phones, loudspeakers in supermarkets, elevators, cafeterias and restaurants. Music making is available to everybody: everyone has a chance at a karaoke party, and why not in Fame Story and Eurovision Junior. Obviously I am joking, but they are not. I have received similar answers from politicians, scientists, and educators.

Kodály has warned us about this danger: “The radio can only offer a substitute. If it is taken for real, then true live music will never be appreciated… it leads to total passivity…The contact with real music will be more and more shallow and unnatural”.

And he insisted that “The only way to be receptive to the experience of sounds is through (musical) reading and writing” .

I agree with Kodály in insisting that without reading and writing there is no literacy today, without literacy there is no knowledge, and with no knowledge there is no choice. The key word is “choice.” That is why we need well-organized music lessons in the curriculum of general education. I will return to the notion of “choice” at the end of this lecture. Until then, remember that music is of universal value.

3. Musical Mother Tongue and Folk Music…

Another important legacy that we have from Kodaly is that one “Musical Mother Tongue” exists (for every nation) and that it is necessary to begin education based on it. He believed that as o¬ne first learns and speaks a mother tongue and through that one later approaches the other languages, the same way one should first formulate a Musical Mother Tongue. He believed for example, that for the Hungarians this tongue consisted of Hungarian folk songs. He pointed out that the best connection between music and language exists in folk songs. He declared that “a good folk song is a perfect masterpiece in itself”.

For us these ideas are commonplace, but not for everybody else. Let us meditate a little upon four points related to “musical mother tongue and “folk music”:

(i) We must be aware that the notion of “Mother Tongue” is common in the ideas of 19th and 20th century nationalism. At that time Hungary was still in the process of forming a nation-state and of course nationalist ideas were very popular even among progressive people. The appropriation of these ideas by “Nationalists” and Fascists makes everybody cautious today but it does not allow anybody to condemn them entirely.

In any case, human beings always try to find characteristics that help them identify themselves as a member of a group. The procedure of forming a personal, local, national, cultural, etc. identity is essential and healthy as long as it does not lead to discrimination.

Kodály was a good example even during the dark years. In 1939 he points out that the folksongs not only “provide a great artistic benefit for the music life of the whole country” but play a very important role in social solidarity as “they help to change the false picture upheld by the urban population about peasants.” In 1937, at the preface of the “Bicinia Hungarica” he points out that once one possesses a mother tongue, the next step is to learn “as many foreign songs as possible, in the original language.”

(ii) A mother tongue functions as such when and because one learns it from one’s parents during the first years of one’s life. A lot of our critics emphasize the fact the folk song is not sung any more at home. Well, it was not even in Kodály’s time, at least not in the cities. He dreamed that it could be possible to “restore” Hungarian folk song as the “Mother Tongue” by introducing it in the elementary education.

Although it was proven very romantic, I have realized that even if the children do not regard folk music as their “musical mother tongue”, they spontaneously react well to it, provided it is well presented to them by their music teacher. Of course, the earlier this happens, the better the result.

(iii) In Greece we have experienced a “folk song revival” during the past 15 years. The foundation of 40 Music High-Schools and the introduction of traditional music as a compulsory element gave an even greater impetus to this folk song revival. Young people form groups and play original folk songs on traditional musical instruments. It is a positive fact but it did not have a greater impact in the society nor did it lead the people involved to broaden their interest with other forms of art music.

[It may be interesting for you to know that Greek Traditional Music is divided into Folk Music, Byzantine Church music and “Laiki” (=urban popular) music. The latter stems from the famous “Rebetika” songs and applies conventional temperament and harmonizing. Folk and Byzantine Church music still apply the traditional modes, temperament, intervals, monophonic structure and drone accompaniment. Last but not least, our traditional Byzantine Musical Notation, more than a thousand years old, updated during C.19th is still in use, giving us direct access to the music of hundreds of composers of those times.]

(iv) The last point concerns the use of folksongs in creating new art music.

We know that folk and art music have co-existed, interrelated and influenced each other in most cultures. Folk song has always been an endless resource for art music. Some well- known examples are the early Motet, the Baroque Suite form, the early Protestant Choral etc. Mozart, Beethoven, all the Romantic composers and last but not least all the composers of the various national schools have used folk music in every possible way: they have added piano or orchestral accompaniment to folk songs, they have arranged folk dances, they have used folk melodies, or they have incorporated folk melodic and rhythmic elements into bigger forms of art music.

Ethnomusicology became a science only after 1900. So, the main difference between the previous examples and Kodály is that he possessed a deep scientific knowledge of folk music, based on field research, whereas the others (eg. Brahms and Liszt) couldn’t tell the difference between a folk song and a popular song.

To close this subject for now, we can only point out that the use of a folk song by a composer doesn’t make it better or worse. It simply transforms it into another form of art, where new criteria apply. A teacher may very well decide to teach a folk song, a composition stemming from a folk song or both.

4. Art of Intrinsic Value…

Among the pictures decorating the “Bartók” room at the Greek Kodály Conservatory and Institute there is a Hungarian engraving named “Only from clear springs” [Tavaszi, Noemi: ‘Csak tiszta forrásbol’ linoleum]. It is the last phrase of Bartók’s “Cantata Profana”. I have discussed many times the possible interpretations of this phrase with my students. We decided that it is the poetic equivalent of the phrase that is the motto of this lecture:“Only art of intrinsic value is suitable for children”.

Whenever I quote this phrase, there is an immediate reaction from the public. As a genuine ‘agent provocateur,’ I expect this reaction. The words “only” and “intrinsic” (chosen by the translator of the Selected Writings) usually alert the audience. Very often the phrase is condemned as “nationalistic” or “politically incorrect.” once I was even called “music ayatollah!”

The word “intrinsic” was unknown to me. I looked it up in a dictionary and found plenty of possible synonyms. I kept three of them for you: Inherent, indispensable, essential. In fact Kodály really used a Hungarian word meaning “of high artistic” value. Each one of them could be used instead of “intrinsic” but the effect would be similar. The real question is: Who defines what is “art of intrinsic value”?

Kodály refers quite often to the notion of good and bad music. “There are only two kinds of music: good and bad… Why could we not provide the best to someone who has no recognition of either good or bad yet? … That is why teaching in the schools and indeed already in the kindergartens should be of high quality from the start.” This notion is derived directly from Plato’s “Republic” where the Greek philosopher speaks about the revolutionary power of music. He points out that a change in the rules of music may even cause change in the laws of the state! Plato is taking over the Pythagorean idea of “ethos” in music, an idea still predominant in Greek traditional music until today. It is obvious that Kodály refers to this “ethos” when he says “Good music certainly has a general character forming influence as it radiates responsibility and moral solemnity. Bad music lacks in all these. Its destructive effect can go as far as to undermine the faith and standards in moral law.

So what is good music? Should we vote? Should we follow the “Top Ten” of the month or the results of “Grammy” or the “MTV” awards? Should we follow the “market,” which is considered nowadays to be the epitome of democracy?

I see Kodály with an ironic smile on his face. Let us read his last quotation the other way around: “Good music is the music that has a general character forming influence as it radiates responsibility and moral solemnity”. Yes, “good music” is a matter of personal choice, but there can be no real choice without knowledge. I mentioned that at the beginning of this lecture; I repeat it now. As far as it concerns education, the choice belongs to the teacher. The teacher has the legal right to chose as he is appointed for that reason by the state, the director or the parent. The teacher has the moral right and responsibility to chose because that is what he is trained to do.

5. The Choice of Literature…

Where is the teacher going to look for the quality material that he needs? (1) In the traditional (folk and art) music of the region and the country, of the neighbouring countries, of the whole world. (2) In the masterpieces of Art music of all the countries and eras.

It is advisable to avoid “exercises” that don’t have an obvious artistic value, as, in art education, whatever lacks artistic value lacks educational value as well.

It is also advisable to avoid “Pop Hits”. Students obviously have enough of it during the day so there is no reason to spend some of their precious 45 minutes in repeating something they already know so well! This music occupies the rest of the world. Let us keep our little classroom free. We don’t have to “sanctify” this kind of music by bringing it into the classroom.

The choice of music literature is not an easy thing in the era of music abundance. one has first to formulate a coherent philosophy of his own about what music is “good enough” for the children, one has to acquire a good knowledge of the general and special literature, in order to be able to recognize and pick the very best of those that are appropriate for a specific class or lesson at a certain moment by applying esthetic, scientific and pedagogic criteria.

“In the overwhelming chaos of music produced today only a true master can find his bearings. It is a hundred times more difficult to acquire sureness of taste today than it was a hundred years ago. Often the genuine can scarcely be distinguished from the counterfeit. But a good musician knows what good music is. He is guided by his familiarity with literature, his theoretical and practical knowledge and his educated taste, all acquired over the course of many years.”

It is time to finish this lecture. In the future, before you make a decision about any teaching material, please remember to meditate for a second upon the truths that: (1) Music is of universal value. (2) It is still good to use folk music and it is advisable to begin with folk music of your own country. (3) The choice is yours, provided you do not forget your moral duty to ensure quality.

I would like to thank, the Organizing Committee and the Board of the British Kodály Academy for their invitation, Dr. Floresca Karanasou and Dr. Paul Lalor for their inspiring comments, practical assistance and friendship, Dr. Jerry-L. Jaccard for editing this paper and my wife Kati for being my best interactive audience.

I should acknowledge that most of the Quotations of Zoltán Kodály that I have used can be found in the valuable I.K.S. collection “Music should belong to everybody,” compiled by my former teacher Prof. Ildiko Herboly-Kocsár and that a lot of the newer translations are done by our I.K.S. Executive Director Mrs. Márta Vandulek.

Michalis Patseas: Director of the Greek Kodály Conservatory and Institute. Conductor of its choirs and orchestral ensembles. Vice-President of the Greek Kodály Society and Secretary-Treasurer of the International Kodály Society. Valentinos Patrikidis was his first music teacher. He studied theory of music, composition, Byzantine church music, singing, choir and orchestra conducting at the National Conservatory of Athens, the Vienna University of Music and the Zoltán Kodály Pedagogical Institute of Music in Hungary. He graduated from the latter with an Advanced Diploma of Post Graduate studies in Music Pedagogy and Choir Conducting with Peter Erdei as his professor. He is also a graduate of the Department of Law and a PHD candidate of the Music Department of the Athens University. He has taken part in 20 musicology and music pedagogy congresses (in Greece, Italy, France, Denmark, Hungary, Finland and USA) mainly as an invited lecturer (15 lectures). He teaches conducting, music pedagogy and singing at the GKCI and at the International Seminars of the Kodály Institute in Kecskemét. He has also taught at institutions of higher education in Cyprus, and at the Music Department of the Athens University. He conducts choirs and orchestral ensembles. His choirs have appeared at the Megaron – The Athens Concert Hall (43 times) at the Herodes Atticus Odeon, at the Ancient Theatre of Epidauros, at the Olympic Zeus Temple and elsewhere. He was the first conductor of the Greek Radio Children’s Choir (1995-1999). The Hungarian Ministry of Culture has awarded him the Pro Cultura Hungarica award and the Hungarian President has decorated him with the “Officer’s Cross of the Order of Honour of the Hungarian Republic” (2003).