National Standards

Kodály Music Education and the National Standards – a natural partnership

OAKE endorses a systematic music education guided by the views of Zoltán Kodály. In 1994, OAKE successfully aligned the new MENC Music Standards with the teachings and pedagogical practices of Zoltán Kodály. Because the new National Core Arts Standards are substantively different than the 1994 standards, they require careful review and consideration. The OAKE Standards and Repertoire Committee will attend to this task.  This committee will complete a thorough review of the new standards and publish strategies and resources to assist music educators in integrating the new standards into their teaching.  For additional information regarding this committee and its project, please feel free to contact the OAKE National Office.

The National Standards comprise the following nine Content Standards. 

1. Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
Singing is central to the Kodály approach to music education. Kodály students sing in every music lesson from pre-school through high school. They sing for the joy of singing. They sing to develop a healthy, expressive voice, the one musical instrument everyone owns. They sing to express and learn about elements of music: melody and rhythm, harmony and form. Songs are chosen from the many cultures represented in the United States, as well as from different eras of history.
Singing informs each of the other areas of musical development
2. Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
Kodály students sing while learning to play a musical instrument. Instruments are used throughout Kodály training to extend students’ practice and performance of music. In early training rhythm instruments are used to develop beat and rhythm awareness. Xylophones, and other tonal instruments are also introduced in pre-school and kindergarten. Recorder is often begun in 3rd or 4th grade so that all students can transfer melodic learning to an instrument. 
In the beginning stages, instrumental repertoire is intertwined with vocal repertoire. Students might sing a song first with words, next with solfège from the staff, and then with letter names. Finally, they play it on their instruments. As students become proficient, they actually hear the melody in their heads, allowing them to play directly both known and new repertoire.
3. Improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments. 
4. Composing and arranging music with specific guidelines.
Kodály students sing to improvise and compose. They know hundreds of songs thoroughly, having sung and analyzed them. This body of song provides parameters for improvisation. Therefore, when a student improvises a melody, it is more likely to be musically inspired, rather than mechanically or physically inspired. Improvisation becomes more thoughtful and less a product of chance. 
Composing is the ultimate test of students’ learning. IN order to compose students must be proficient in both reading and writing. Kodály-trained students do not need to sit down with an instrument and search for notes when they compose. They have learned to hear music in their head, then write it down, just as they have learned to think language and write it.
5. Reading and Writing Music
Kodály students sing to learn how to read and write music. Solfège is introduced in early training, before letter names. Rhythm syllables are also used to enable children to read rhythms more musically and accurately. 
The reading and writing curricula are carefully sequenced in accordance with how children learn. As each new melodic or rhythmic element is introduced, it is defined aurally in relation to what students already know, then integrated with previous learning through a variety of reading and writing activities. 
Sequential sight singing instruction, utilizing inner hearing, develops the students ability to read at the highest level. The ability to hear ahead of the eye and to produce sound independently is present in the best vocal and instrumental musicians.
6. Learning to, analyzing, and describing music.
7. Evaluating music and music performance.
Kodály students sing as part of listening activities. In listening, they apply their growing understanding of musical language within different styles and genres of music. In a Kodály classroom, the music chosen contains elements with which students are familiar. Singing and reading activities frequently precede the listening to prepare students to understand what they will hear. 
When analyzing and describing a piece of music to which they have listened, students are able to distinguish its formal characteristics and can describe how the parts are related. When appropriate, different recordings of the same piece are presented so that the students can compare and contrast performances. This builds greater focus and discrimination, assets in analyzing their own performances as well as those to which they listen.
8. Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts.
9. Understanding music in relation to history and culture.
Kodály students sing songs from many cultures and eras. Song, which combines music, language, and culture, is an excellent tool for exploring relationships among the arts. In early learning, the relationship between music and culture is primarily textual, i.e., the text of a song will lead to exploration of the history and culture from which it arose. Similarly, songs from a particular region or time enhance the study of history because they are actual carriers of he language and culture. 
As students develop competence in reading and analyzing music, they can discover, through performance, the characteristics of a particular style of music. These can then be related to similar characteristics in other art forms from that culture, as well as to the more general ideas which have shaped it. Any style of music, whether Western art music, jazz, blue-grass, or world music, can serve as a basis for comparing musical style and culture.


What are the National Standards for music education?
The National Standards, drafted by MENC, The National Association for Music Education provide a collective focus for what American students should be able to do, and know, in music.
What is the Kodály approach to music education?
It is a philosophy that integrates many of the best ideas, techniques, and approaches to music education. Based on singing, it is a comprehensive program that develops the ability to understand what is heard, then transfer that learning to reading, writing, improvisation, and composition.
Who was Kodály?
Zoltán Kodály, a Hungarian composer, musician, and teacher, inspired this approach to music education. Concerned for the musical training of teachers and children alike, he encouraged colleagues and students to travel throughout Europe in the 1920s in search of the best models for teaching music. Their findings formed the basis for what is now known internationally as Kodály Music Education.
What adaptations have been made for teaching in the US?
Hungarian folk songs are replaced by folk songs from all over the world. As Kodály based instructional sequences are derived from selected musical literature, it is only natural that changes have occurred in the order in which rhythmic and melodic elements are introduced.
What is OAKE?
OAKE, the Organization of American Kodály Educators, was founded in 1975 to bring together music educators across the country who are interested in the Kodály philosophy.

Isaac Stern

“I am a vocal advocate of the Kodály system.”
“Teachers should be carefully trained in reasons and logic behind words, intervals and how a child can make music sound from the throat.”
“A proper teaching of musical disciplines to children starting at the age of five, six, or seven in an intellectually applied system by highly skilled and educated teachers results in the areas of memory, logic, understanding of mathematical formulas, and reading abilities going right off the graph.”
“With properly applied music study we would have far better educated human beings, and they themselves would make an audience who would find music necessary.”

The Instrumentalist, April 1993
Reprinted by permission