Written by Hazel Duff, Music Teacher at Dollar
In the Prep School, music lessons are taught based on the Kodály Concept. Zoltan Kodály was a musician and educator who was inspired to improve the quality of music education in his native country, Hungary, whilst working at the Liszt Academy of Music. He realised that although his students were technically proficient, they could not ‘hear’ the music in their heads. He therefore devised a set of principles to improve practice, as well as to enrich the lives and culture of the children.
Kodály identified three stages of learning: unconscious experience, making conscious and reinforcement. Singing games and rhymes are played extensively in this regard. The children are largely unaware of the concept behind a game and are keen to play it repeatedly for enjoyment, as well as in the hope of being ‘chosen’ or to have the ‘next turn’. This method allows for repetition of consolidating beat, rhythm and pitch as well as many other musical features, whilst holding the attention of the children.
At Dollar, music literacy (reading and writing music) begins as early as Prep 1. As soon as the pupils are able to keep a steady pulse, they are introduced to rhythm, and learn to read simple patterns using pictorial representations. By Prep 2, these rhythms are given names, such as ‘ta’ and ‘te-te’ and the pupils begin reading and writing using stick notation. As pupils continue throughout the Prep and Junior School, more complicated rhythms are introduced.
Singing is one of our main teaching tools and we nurture this from the start of a child’s life at Dollar. Every child has a voice and Kodály believed that children should be able to sing music before they play an instrument. The songs and games sung in our classes help develop aural awareness through pitch-matching and interval singing. This is further developed by the use of sol-fa and accompanying hand-signs so that children can understand the relationship between the notes. Classes are taught how melodies are written on lines and spaces in a similar manner to the rhythm process – using pictures first, then introducing the music stave. By teaching music this way, our children not only learn the rudiments of music, but are able to read, write, sing and perform them from a young age.
The aim of the Kodály approach is to enable children to become joyful, rounded, confident musicians – not just instrumentalists. Here at Dollar, we are giving them the tools to do this.