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What is Kodály Music Education?

What is the American Kodály Institute?

The American Kodály Institute, founded in 2000 by Amy Branum Huggins, is a teacher training organization that offers a four-summer master's degree program for music educators, leading to Kodály certification and an advanced degree. AKI was formed in response to requests from music educators in Maryland and surrounding states for a Kodály certification program located in a geographic area convenient to them, and to provide a pool of music educators to fill the growing demand for Kodály-trained master teachers.

AKI's highly successful program attracts graduate students from across the United States and international students. Originally established as a division of the Children's Chorus of Maryland, then as an independent non-profit corporation, AKI is now a division within the School of Education at Loyola University Maryland.

Endorsed by the Organization of American Kodály Educators as a certification program, AKI's program emphasizes materials, methods, and sequencing appropriate for American students in American schools. It is unique among Kodály certification programs in its comprehensive approach, which includes training in vocal development and pedagogy, movement, application of current research into how children learn music, and accompaniment skills on folk instruments. The core faculty members are nationally- and internationally-known certified Kodály specialists with extensive experience teaching children and training music educators.  AKI's program has the support of the Maryland State Superintendent of Schools and the music supervisors of the public school systems in the state of Maryland, and is nationally endorsed by the Organization of American Kodály Educators.

What is AKI's mission?

The mission of the American Kodály Institute is to:

  • Meet the continuing educational needs of music educators by providing a comprehensive, graduate level teacher-training program that specializes in Kodály-inspired music education and incorporates the findings of current research in the field of music learning theory.
  • Apply the educational principles of 20th-century Hungarian pedagogue Zoltán Kodály in a way that is relevant to American students in the American schools of the 21st-century.
  • Develop master music educators for the 21st-century equipped with the knowledge, skills, and tools to work toward Kodály's vision of universal music literacy.

What is the Kodály approach to music education?

Zoltán Kodály (1882–1967), Zoltán Kodálya Hungarian composer, ethnomusicologist and educator, inspired this approach to music education. Deeply concerned about the quality of the musical training available to children and teachers in Hungary in the 1920’s, he encouraged his colleagues and students to travel throughout Europe in search of the best models for teaching music. Their findings formed the basis for a comprehensive, child-developmental approach to music education that integrates the most effective and successful ideas, techniques, and tools for music instruction. Based on singing, it develops in students the ability to listen with understanding, perform with artistry, read, write, improvise, and compose music. This approach is now known internationally as Kodály Music Education.

The cornerstones of the Kodály philosophy are as follows:

  • That music literacy is the right of every human being.
  • That singing should be the foundation of music education.
  • That music education must begin with the very young.
  • That the folk songs of a child’s own culture constitute his musical mother-tongue and should be the vehicle for early instruction.
  • That only music of genuine artistic value (both folk and composed) should be used in teaching.
  • That the sequencing of music instruction should be based on child-developmental principles.
  • That only the most skilled, well trained artist-teacher-scholars are worthy of teaching children.

Some of the tools used in implementing the Kodály philosophy include:

  • Movable-do solfa (borrowed from England)
  • Solfa hand signs (adapted from those of John Spencer Curwen of England)
  • Rhythm syllables (adapted from those of Emile-Joseph Cheve of France)
  • Eurhythmic activities (adapted from those of Emile Jaques-Dalcroze of Switzerland)
  • Emphasis on pentatonic music for young children (Both Carl Orff of Germany and Rudolf Steiner of Austria came to the same conclusion about this developmentally-appropriate practice.)

The findings of the latest research in Music Learning Theory confirm the validity of the Kodály sequence, tools, and techniques, and also point to the importance of some additions and refinements. (The American Kodály Institute has pioneered curriculum design that implements these additions and refinements, resulting in even more remarkable success in the classroom than that achieved using an ordinary Kodály program.)

Throughout the world, the Kodály approach to music education is cultivating in students a life-long enjoyment of music and the ability to work with music knowledgeably and comfortably as a language shared by all people.

Kodály Quotes

"Our age of mechanization leads along a road ending with man himself as a machine. Only the spirit of singing can save us from this fate."

“Music is a manifestation of the human spirit, similar to language. Its greatest practitioners have conveyed to mankind things not possible to say in any other language. If we do not want these things to remain dead treasures, we must do our utmost to make the greatest possible number of people understand their idiom.”

When asked at what age music education should begin, Kodály replied, “Nine months before the birth of the mother.”

“It is much more important who is the music teacher in Kisvárda than who is the director of the opera house in Budapest…for a poor director fails once, but a poor teacher keeps on failing for 30 years, killing the love of music in 30 batches of children.”

How to choose a Kodály certification program

Three students outside the Student Center

Does the program follow OAKE (Organization of American Kodály Educators) guidelines?

Students at Levels I, II, and III should be receiving training in Musicianship, Pedagogy, Materials, Conducting Choir, and Special Studies such as folk instruments, folk dance, and voice development.

Who are the instructors?

Instructors should be experts in their fields. In addition to their expertise for teaching adults, they should have extensive experience teaching children from culturally and economically diverse backgrounds in a variety of settings and situations.

Is the program up-to-date?

Cutting-edge teacher training includes study of Music Learning Theory and applications of current research into how children learn music.

Is the program relevant to my teaching situation?

In addition to training in personal musicianship and vocal development, students should receive hands-on, practical training in the curriculum, sequencing, lesson design techniques, strategies, materials, and teaching styles that get results with today's American students. Teaching materials and the sequence of pedagogical elements should be drawn from the rich and diverse heritage of American folk song.

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