By Robbin L. Marcus - Director, Kodaly Certification at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA
People often ask me “What is the Kodály approach to music education?” My elevator-question answer is “Kodály is a method that teaches students music literacy using the folk music of their native country.” Most people reading this catalogue know at least that much about Kodály. In my opinion, the more important question is “Why use the Kodály approach?”
The Kodály method has benefits in the classroom and beyond for both teacher and student. Many Kodály teachers find that the sequential learning that is at the heart of Kodály thinking seeps out into their daily lives. Do you yearn for organization? Do you like planning ahead? Do you simply wish you knew how to do these things? Then Kodály is for you. Would you like to improve your own musicianship? Would you like to have better tools for sight reading? Are you a choral singer? Then Kodály is for you. In learning to analyze the structure and form of folk song, choral music and lesson planning, Kodály teachers learn how to truly understand the “whys” of the music we present to our students. The emphasis on long-term, monthly and daily planning will satisfy the most demanding principal and never leave you wondering “What are we going to do today?”, but yet allows for creative choices each and every day.
For our students, the Kodály method is invaluable. Kodály himself spoke of the importance of “musical mother tongue”, which defines our canon of folk song. This beginning with the familiar and then branching out to something new is the heart of Kodály education. Today, so many children are not learning nursery or folk songs before they get to school. It is our job as music teachers to give them back their natural inheritance, and to help each child use their gift of a singing voice. In today’s world, so many children don’t understand how to play games or how to be in a social situation. A recent article by Harvard educators *spoke to the importance of learning life-skills through supervised play in the elementary school. The Kodály approach masterfully allows for improvised, creative play in the games that represent the “relaxation” portions of each lesson. Students learn to read and write music, to play, to improvise, to be in-tune singers, and most importantly, to have fun while doing all of the above!
I used to say that my highest goal as a music teacher was to create trained, appreciative audiences. When I see the articulate, informed thoughts of my now-grown former students expressed on social media, I am beginning to understand that I have achieved that goal. As Kodály said, “Music is for Everyone!”