Kodály method

The Kodály method is the name associated with a system of music education developed in Hungary under the guidance of Hungarian composer, ethnomusicologist, and educator Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967).

Kodály method

The Kodály method is the name associated with a system of music education developed in Hungary under the guidance of Hungarian composer, ethnomusicologist, and educator Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967). The basic precepts of the Kodály approach are: 1) that all people capable of linguistic literacy are capable of musical literacy, and that it is the obligation of the schools to provide for that literacy; 2) that the human voice, the instrument with which everyone is born, is the best instrument for beginning musical instruction; 3) that folk music of one's own language and culture is the best music to use in teaching; 4) that only music of undisputed quality, whether folk music or composed music, should be used in teaching; 5) that music education, to be fully effective, must begin at a very early age; 6) that music should occupy a central place in school curricula, equal to that of mathematics or language arts. While the Kodály method has been most often associated in Canada with young children, it is not a system for teaching music only to infants; rather, it is a comprehensive approach to musicianship as suitable to the university level as to kindergarten.

The Kodály Method in Canada

In 1964, Richard Johnston, at the time director of the RCMT Summer School, became the first representative of a Canadian institution to visit Budapest for first-hand information on the concept. The following year Ann Osborn gave a pilot course for teachers at the summer school. In July 1965 at the invitation of Georges Little of the Quebec Ministry of Education, professor Erzsébet Szönyi, assistant to Kodály in Budapest, presented a series of introductory courses at the École normale de musique in Montreal. Szönyi returned in 1967 with a choir that performed at Expo 67 and toured Quebec. She also taught at the JMC (YMC). With subsidies from OISE, Johnston and Harvey Perrin circulated their observations on the Kodály method following a study tour in Hungary in 1966. In July 1966 Kodály himself accepted an invitation to visit Toronto to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Toronto, to deliver the 1966 CAPAC-MacMillan lectures, and to observe the introduction of the Kodály concept to the RCMT summer school through choral sight-singing and rhythmic-interpretation courses. Osborn, who taught these courses, subsequently spent three years in Hungary in further study of the Kodály concept and its applications. Johnston also introduced the principles of Kodály in sight-reading classes in the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, and the Department of Music, University of Calgary. During the 1969-70 season the pianist and composer Mary Syme (b London, Ont, ca 1918; ATCM 1933, LTCM 1935, BA (McMaster) 1938, a pupil of Hayunga Carman in Toronto) adapted the Kodály ideas for a series of CBC school broadcasts, one of which won an Ohio State Award in 1970. The RCMT summer school continued to offer Kodály courses by a number of guests, including the Hungarian educators Katalin Forrai, who specialized in the teaching of pre-school children, and Ilona Bartalus, who later taught for several years at the University of Western Ontario and the Victoria Conservatory of Music.

Canadian Teacher-Training Centres

Jacquotte Ribière-Raverlat, a French educator who was responsible for an authorized French adaptation of the Kodály principles, headed an experimental venture in Quebec in 1968, at the instigation of Sister Marcelle Corneille of the Villa-Maria Convent in Montreal. This consisted of training courses for teachers, supervision of student teachers, and later a pilot project at the elementary level at the Villa-Maria Convent. The project began in 1970 and consisted of a daily period of music instruction along the Kodály principles, but adapted to French and Quebec folklore. Gabrielle Letourneau continued Ribiere-Raverlat's work in Quebec. Thomas Legrady's French-Canadian adaptation of the Kodály concept, for use by teachers and their pupils, was published in the four-volume Lisons la musique (Ottawa 1967, Montreal 1970). In 1973 a specialist from Budapest, Miklós Takács, continued Ribière-Raverlat's work by adding an integrated choral dimension.

The first university in Canada to offer comprehensive programs of teacher training in Kodály principles and practice at both undergraduate and graduate levels was the University of Calgary (1979). Those programs, under the direction of Lois Choksy, have graduated many hundreds of teachers. Summer teacher-training programs exist at Acadia University, Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Western Ontario, Brandon University, University of Victoria, and the Kodály Department at the Victoria Conservatory of Music. Workshops are held regularly throughout the year at centres across Canada.

The Kodály Method in the Schools

The first English-language schools in Canada to implement Kodály's ideas on a system-wide basis were in Halifax, NS, under the direction of Kaye Dimock Pottie, and Nanaimo, BC, under Isobel and Alastair Highet. These programs were the models for many other programs across Canada. By the end of the twentieth century, the Kodály method was the most widely used systematic approach to the teaching of school music in Canada. Exemplary programs may be seen in Halifax, NS, the province of Newfoundland, Middlesex County and Waterloo County schools in Ontario, in the Calgary Catholic schools, and in Langley and Nanaimo, BC.

The Kodály Society of Canada

A bilingual professional association, the Kodály Society of Canada was founded in 1973 as the Kodály Institute of Canada, with Mae Strasser Daly as executive director, before the International Kodály Society and the Organization of American Kodály Educators were established in 1975. The International Kodály Society changed the name of the Canadian organization to the Kodály Society of Canada in 1986. Past presidents were Gordon Kushner (1973-9), Kenneth Bray (1979-81), Pierre Perron (1981-4), and Lois Choksy (1984-8), France David (1988-91), Ki Adams (1991-95), and Amanda Montgomery (1995-99). A. Kim Eyre became president in 1999 and led the Kodály Society of Canada into the twenty-first century. The society is dedicated to the dissemination of research and the improvement of teaching following the musical, educational, and cultural concepts associated with Zoltán Kodály. To this end it has held biennial national conferences and published a journal, Alla Breve. By 2004, there were six branches of the Kodály Society of Canada: British Columbia, with 19 members; the Alberta Kodály Association, founded in 1983, with 100 members; Manitoba; the Kodály Society of Ontario; Quebec; and the Kodály Society of Nova Scotia.

International Status

The Kodály Society of Canada is the recognized national body affiliated with the International Kodály Society based in Budapest. International symposia took place every two years beginning in 1973; these were held in Canada in 1977 (at Acadia University) and 1991 (at the University of Calgary).


Further Reading

  • Ribière-Raverlat, Jacquotte. L'Éducation musicale en Hongrie (Paris 1967)

    Rapport de la Commission royale d'enquête sur l'enseignement des arts dans la province de Québec, vol 2 (Quebec City 1969)

    Szönyi, Erzsébet. Musical Reading and Writing (London 1974)

    Daly, Mae. 'Kodály Institute of Canada,' Recorder, vol 18, Sep 1975

    Ribière-Raverlat, Jacquotte. Un Chemin pédagogique en passant par les chansons (Paris 1976)

    Szönyi, Erzsébet. Quelques Aspects de la méthode de Zoltán Kodály (Budapest 1976)

    Choksy, Lois, The Kodály Method (Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1974, 1988)

    -.The Kodály Context (Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1981)

    Johnston, Richard, ed. Kodály in America (Boosey & Hawkes 1991).