Music study plan

The Kodály approach at the Cathedral Choir School

Music education in the Netherlands, or rather the lack of it, is currently taking centre stage. Fortunately, a reversal is happening: new initiatives are developed to return music education to primary school, and several organisations work hard to promote good music education.

The Choir School really wants to contribute to this development. Since the school year 2016-2017 we have been partnering with the Royal Conservatoire The Hague. Some years ago, the Royal Conservatoire took the initiative to introduce highly qualified music education that applies the Kodály approach in the Netherlands, for example by establishing the Master’s degree ‘Music Education according to the Kodály Concept’.

Zoltán Kodály

Kodály (1882-1967) is an Hungarian composer who, in the course of his lifetime, developed a strong view of music life and music education in his country, from the conviction that learning to sing, read, write, understand and enjoy music is possible for any child. In the Netherlands, Willem Gehrels caused music education to blossom during the previous century. He followed the same idealistic view, that music education must be achievable for any child, and he used principles that are comparable to the Kodály concept.

Cooperation Royal Conservatoire and Choir School

The Choir School and the Royal Conservatoire have started to cooperate. By working together, the conservatoire gets the opportunity to offer adequate internships to Master students, and the Choir School gets the opportunity to permanently stay informed about new developments within music education, as well as to take advantage of the input offered by the students and teachers of the Master’s degree. For the sake of this joint goal, the conservatoire has seconded one of its Master’s degree teachers, Daniel Salbert, to the Choir School. Together with Margareth Iping he will implement the Kodály approach and establish a new Choir School curriculum. Margareth is a music teacher at the Choir School and in 2018 she achieved the Master’s degree in the Kodály concept.

The Kodály Concept

The way we work with Kodály is not a method, but follows a set of principles that, in brief, come down to this:

  • Singing is the basis: the most important instrument to learn music is the voice, and to sing is to have direct contact with music. By singing, not only a musical ear is developed, but the intonation, the sense of rhythm and the memory profit as well. Children learn to sing everything according to the sol-fa-system (singing to do-re-mi). That includes hand singing, which means that each note corresponds to a specific hand sign.
  • Attention to sound: sound is the starting point in the entire process of musical literacy. At their young age, children effortlessly connect what they hear, understand and name. The aim of the Kodály approach is to structure the material in such a way that children continue to grow towards an ever more difficult repertoire.
  • Musical activities: children learn to understand and appreciate music if they can also experience it physically. That is why singing and listening to pieces of music is always combined with play and movement.
  • Attention to good music: the children are educated in such a way that they also learn to appreciate classical music (the term ‘Art Music’ reflects the meaning better). The assumption that only pop music belongs to children’s preferences is a misunderstanding. The songs and polyphonic pieces to be learned are selected carefully, so that each lesson contains varied activities and the teacher can pay attention to the mental, physical and spiritual aspects of music.

Music schedule

The Choir School has a lot of experience in working with ‘regular’ primary school children who are in situations that seriously involve making music at a high level.

The music lessons are taught to all year groups, at some days by Margareth Iping, and at other days by Daniel Salbert. Once per week, the music lesson is aimed at building drama skills, so that children are enabled to put choir direction into practice. 

Apart from that, choir rehearsals for liturgy music take place on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday mornings, before the lessons begin. These morning rehearsals are led by choir director Hester Westra and are meant for groups 7 and 8; group 6 joins in from January.  Every Thursday evening there is the evening rehearsal for the entire Cathedral Choir; the children from groups 7 and 8 only participate during the first hour, from 7 to 8 pm.

Lastly, the Choir School considers it a good thing if a child learns to play an instrument. A number of instrumental teachers provide after-school lessons within the Choir School building. For parents, this is a practical way to allow the combination of school days and music lessons.