My musical sister called me Saturday to wish me happy birthday, and as we chatted she made me aware of a pedagogical method about which I’d been clueless – The Kodály (say ko-DAY) Method. Apparently Sister and Brother-in-Law are prepping to host a fellow who’s doing some intensive study on the Method at a nearby university. As I started to investigate, I learned that Kodály is one of the major methods.
Zoltán Kodály was a Hungarian composer and musician, living from 1882-1967. Wikipedia says that in 1925 he was listening to a performance of Hungarian children singing and became saddened by the state of musical affairs in his country. He subsequently undertook a lifelong project to transform the teaching of music in Hungary. He was so successful that one source reports ½ of all Hungarian schools were music schools in the country’s socialist, post WWII era. Despite myself I can’t help wondering about the kids in that choir who performed so dreadfully and if they ever became aware that they were so terrible they spawned a pedagogical revolution!
As I read about Kodály in Hungary I couldn’t help but think about Suzuki in Japan (and in the US). Both men were instrumental in bringing about a revolution of musical pedagogy: Kodály for the voice, and Suzuki for the violin. Chief among Kodály’s methods are teaching to the developmental readiness of the child, consequently he starts teaching with a pentatonic (do re mi so la) scale, a mode typically employed in Hungarian folk music. Kodály compiled an immense collection of Hungarian Folk as well as music he considered to be great from the various musical eras. This compilation formed the basis of his Method’s sequenced repertoire. In Kodály’s Method, musical notation is taught later, after aural development, a similar approach to Suzuki – in fact one online source speaking to Kodály discussed the analogy to linguistic development, the same analogy Suzuki himself so frequently deployed. Suzuki, from my experience, does utilize classic musical notation all the while through the beginner ranks, whereas it sounds like, in contrast, Kodály employs specialized beginner notation early in the curriculum.
But on a more fundamental level, the men shared the belief that music is an innate capability of all humans, a capability that we should exploit in our efforts to better ourselves intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.
Thanks to my sister for the conversation that prompted my cursory investigation into Kodály, and thanks to Wikipedia, The Organization of American Kodály Educators, and The Alliance for Active Music Making for background information about Kodály’s Method and philosophy.
Thanks for reading,