Music at ISWA

‘One Community but Many Mother Tongues’

The music program at the International School of WA is built upon the philosophy of Hungarian pedagogue Zoltán Kodály (1882 – 1967). He is recognised internationally as a vital voice in music education in the 21st century. His approach in music education, known as The Kodály Method is recognised as best teaching practice and is implemented in schools around the world.

Who was Zoltán Kodály?

Zoltan Kodály was a Hungarian composer, educator, philosopher and ethnomusicologist – a towering figure of the last century whose concept of music education has had remarkable influence world-wide.  His main aim was to educate all society to read music as easily as read words; to develop a love of music through experience and understanding; to discriminate between good music and bad music; and above all, to regard music as an integral part of life, placing the utmost importance on its role in education, just as the Greeks had done in the time of Pythagoras.

What is the core philosophy of Zoltán Kodály?

The core beliefs of the Kodály Method are as follows:
• Everyone is capable and has the right to musical literacy.
• Singing is the foundation of musical learning.
• Music education must begin with the very young.
• The importance of using folk music (creating a musical mother tongue)
• Using music of intrinsic value from different styles and genres
• Incorporating games, movement, playing instruments, reading and writing music with singing.
• Sequential process following a child's natural learning development:
 Aural - oral - kinaesthetic
 Written - pictorial - abstract
 Read - recognized

What are the benefits of the Kodály approach?

First and foremost, because the approach is based on singing, and every student possesses a voice, no expensive equipment is required. Direct access to the world of music is available without the technical problems associated with the playing of an instrument. Moreover, singing without the aid of an instrument is a powerful pedagogical tool that, in the hands of a good teacher, can lead to a highly developed musical ear.
Secondly, a Kodály approach lesson is a lesson in which students are deeply involved and responsible for their own progress. It is highly structured and sequential, student-centred and designed for all.  Such a lesson is not going where only the gifted can follow – it provides music education for every child and affirms each student as being innately musical.

What does it involve?

• Children’s songs, singing games and folk dances are an integral part of early training and are used to enhance learning and enjoyment. Kodály musical training always involves active music making.
• Solfa syllables and the moveable-do system are used to teach skills in pitch discrimination, intervals, harmony and analysis. These skills are reinforced with a system of hand signs. Rhythmic skills are developed by means of a system of time names (rhythm duration syllables).
• Musical learning evolves from a variety of experiences including singing songs in unison, rounds, canons and in parts; singing themes from great instrumental music; games, improvisation and memory activities based on beat, rhythm, pitch and timbre; and listening and moving to music.
• A large repertoire of folk and art songs is visited and re-visited at deeper levels. Reading and writing skills stem from these activities. Tuned and un-tuned percussion instruments are useful as accompanying instruments for playing and improvising.

Music in the Early Years – The Music Every Day Program

ISWA is only one of two schools in Western Australia to have implemented the Music Every Day Program as part of the Early Years Program.

An adaption of the Hungarian model of The Singing Schools implemented by Kodály and his students, the program allows young students to participate in activities they enjoy - singing, moving, dancing, creating their own compositions and engaging with musical instruments.

Music is connected to play, with musical activities laying the foundation for learning (Bridges, 1994; Campbell & Scott-Kassner, 2006). The musical nurturing a child receives during the early years can have a marked impact on later success in music and level of involvement (Feirerabend, 1990) and on adult attitudes towards music (Temmerman, 1995).
Research conducted by the University of Queensland in 2015 also shows that music participation with toddlers improves numeracy, prosocial skills and attention over and above the effects of shared book reading. According to Margaret Barrett “The study highlights that informal music education in early childhood is a vital tool for supporting the cognitive and social development of children.”

The music program at ISWA is one that embraces the creation of ‘musical community’ while at the same time reflecting 21st century research and best teaching practice.