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January 10th, 2018

Zoltán Kodály: Pedagogies and Philosophies of Music Education

Born in Hungary in 1882 to a musically inclined family, Zoltán Kodály began his early years studying a variety of musical instruments. These instruments included the violin, piano, viola, and cello in addition to singing in a cathedral choir. These studies, in particular, are what gave Kodály an introduction early on in his life to the importance of choral singing. By the age of 15, Kodály had already begun to compose his own overture he created for his school’s orchestra. Later on in his life, Kodály achieved many different covenant titles as his influence in music education transferred throughout the world. These achievements began from his involvement with musical composition while receiving a higher education and the people that he met such as Béla Bartók. Despite the fact that Kodály’s initial educational focus was on literary studies instead of music, he ultimately decided to change programs. For this reason, he went on to receive his Ph.D. for his analysis of a Hungarian folk song. Following this academic achievement, he later became a professor at the same school he attended to receive his music education called Academy of Music. Essentially, Kodály was able to pave the way for music education through the philosophies he held for many years to come. He accomplished this great feat by beginning a system of music education that was available for all students in Hungary. Eventually, his system for music education gained recognition worldwide and has remained a vital part of musically educating students all across the world.

In particular, this method Kodály developed for teaching children music is known as the Kodály Method. However, this method was not actually invented by Kodály himself. Rather, it is a system of music education based on the philosophies of Kodály which has evolved over time in the schools of Hungary. In other words, what Kodály created was principles and the adaptations that occurred from those who followed Kodály’s work is what created the actual teaching techniques that are seen in schools today. His intentions with this particular method was to encourage those beginning singers to expand upon their technique and knowledge. Essentially, the sequence of learning music formulated through the Kodály Method is the following: listen, sing, read, write, understand and finally create. One of the specific ways that the method is used however is through hand signals. These signals are used to show learners tonal relationships. In other words, it provides children with a visual of what the written note are portraying in terms of their tone. These hand signals advocated by Kodály as a tool for teaching musical literacy are also referred to as the moveable do system. It may also be referred to as the pentatone. This includes the hand signals taught to children in the form of do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do.

In order to create the lasting legacy in musical education that he has, Zoltán Kodály had many different philosophies as well as goals leading up to the creation of the Kodály Method. This is especially true when it came to his philosophies regarding musical education. His first belief was specific to increasing the level of teacher training in the world of music. In other words, he wanted to improve musical literacy in schools. He wanted this goal to be achieved since he believed learning music must begin with young children. Another philosophy of Kodály’s was that he believed every individual was capable of learning music. Not only that, but he also believed that everyone had a right to musical literacy. According to Kodály, the foundation of musical learning begins with singing. Not just singing any genre of songs, however. That is because he believed in the importance of using folk music and music of high artistic value. In addition to signing, he also held the belief of including reading and writing music as well as playing instruments. He believed all this could be achieved with the inclusion of games and movement within music.

All in all, Kodaly’s philosophies of music education has resulted in an impactful shift to occur in music education. This shift is what has influenced the teaching practices of music across the entire world. It is for this reason that Kodály is remembered for his desire to keep his method for teaching music included in the educational system as long as people continue to have the desire to sing.