Reflections on a Year in Kecskemét by Kathy Hulme

from the BKA Newsletter, Summer 2004

I first studied Kodály musicianship with David and then Yuko Vinden in London. Although their teaching was of the highest quality I wanted to pursue a more intensive course of study in order to acquire the skills that the Kodály approach can bring. The obvious next step was to come here to the Kodály Institute in Kecskemét.

The Kodály Institute is an international college catering for up to 40 students a year. They offer courses at four levels, introductory, basic, general and advanced. In the first week of the course students are graded by written and aural exam and placed in the appropriate solfege group. On the basis of an audition in singing, piano and any other instruments, we are assigned to a piano teacher, a singing teacher and a chamber group. Depending on the course there are classes in methodology, Hungarian music literature, folk music, general music literature, conducting and score reading.

Overall the teaching is of a very high standard, particularly in the core subjects of solfege, singing and piano. I am fortunate to be in Éva Vendrei’s solfege group: BKA Summer School students will know what a skilled and patient teacher she is. I am a complete beginner at the piano and yet my teacher Roland Hajdu has taught me so much, he too is patient and never patronizing. All the teachers here demand the best performance whatever level one is at. They never divorce the theory or the technical from the music and never let you forget that music is the language of the soul and the emotions, something you’d rather forget on a dreary morning when your stomach is rumbling.

The methodology observations at the Kodály School are truly inspiring. A testament to what can be achieved when all the elements of the Kodály approach are in place. Hungarian language lessons are offered twice weekly, although progress can be slow as English is the lingua franca of the Institute. Trips to the local restaurants, cafes and swimming pool offer limited opportunities to practise the language. I’m proud to say I can now confidently order a cappuccino, and make sure it doesn’t come with a blob of synthetic cream in it, in Hungarian. That is no mean feat I can assure you.

Students have the option of living in the Institute or arranging their own accommodation, which is cheaper, but fraught with complications. I have opted for the luxury of living in, mainly tempted by the piano in every room. Apart from this luxury the accommodation is basic but fine. The main inconveniences for me are the tiny kitchen and the lack of a sofa.

At weekends Budapest provides an escape from Kecskemét. Going to the baths is a favourite trip and in the winter, ice-skating. It is easy to get to by bus, which takes about 1 hr 20 mins (unless you have the misfortune to get the slow bus, which takes 2½ hours).

Spending a year in Hungary is not as cheap as it used to be. The Hungarians are getting ready to join the European Union in May 2004 and will eventually join the Euro, so the exchange rate is not as favourable to Sterling as it was. While many basic things are much cheaper than in Britain, foreign imported goods are more expensive because of heavy sales tax. The fees for the year course are about £4-5000, and living expenses are about the same amount again. Scholarships are available from the IKS, details are posted on the Kodály Institute website

I am finding my year here very interesting and it is wonderful to have the time to practise. It is fascinating to be immersed in Hungarian music and culture. It is both an education in what makes Hungarian music particularly Hungarian, but also in what makes my background in Britain particularly British.

I would recommend this course to anyone who has an interest in Kodály and would be happy to answer any questions from potential students. You can contact me at See you in Kecskemét!