From the Office in Budapest

Dear members and friends of the IKS,

May this message find all of you and your loved ones safe and sound from this most unpredictable pandemic. Please know that you are all in my most tender thoughts and prayers as you navigate frequent changes to your normal routines; I encourage you to be full of courage and good cheer. Our membership in the IKS brings us together through the healing power of great music and the tremendous growth it causes in us and in our students through Zoltán Kodály’s noble concept of artistic education.

In spite of our present challenges, we have much to celebrate. The cover of this edition of the Bulletin features a photo of the 50 official delegates from 17 countries to the 1973 First Kodály International Symposium, held on the campus of Holy Names College in Oakland, California. During the two-week symposium, there was a five-day conference session for interested attendees known as “Observer Week.”1 I was one of the 350 observers and those five days completely changed the course of my professional life. The 1973 symposium was especially significant as the first step toward the 1975 creation of the International Kodály Society at the Second Kodály International Symposium in Kecskemét, Hungary.2 With the cover photo as an introduction, we are pleased to offer this Autumn 2020 edition of the Bulletin to celebrate the 45th anniversary of our founding.

Please join with me in welcoming Jeanette Panagapka as the new Co-Editor of the Bulletin of the International Society. Jeanette is a seasoned Kodály music educator from Canada, a former Secretary-Treasurer of the IKS, a brilliant teacher of teachers, and an equally qualified academic editor. She has already brought her considerable resources to bear on this present issue of the Bulletin. In this issue we are delighted to present to you several historically important readings including an interview between Zoltán Kodály and Richard Johnston; articles by Erzsébet Szőnyi and László Eősze, two of the principle founders of the IKS; and an insightful overview of how Kodály and Bartók worked together as pioneers of the modern science of ethnomusicology. A brief report by Sister Lorna Zemke on the 1973 First International Kodály Symposium, and one by Péter Erdei on the 50th anniversary of the International Kodály Seminar series sponsored by the Kodály Institute in Kecskemét round out this edition of the Bulletin.

Jeanette has also taken the initiative to contact IKS members around the world to ask how they are coping with teaching music in their schools and studios. Not only may you feel solidarity with those colleagues, but also glean practical solutions from their responses. Please also feel free to let Jeanette know of your own experiences for a possible “part two” for the 2021 Spring issue. We do very much want to hear from you and to know how you are solving music teaching problems common to all of us.

We must also note that 2020 has seen the passing of two more pillars of Hungarian music education and of the IKS itself. In the Spring edition we paid tribute to Professor Erzsébet Szőnyi who passed away in December 2019. Now you will read in this Autumn issue of the recent passing of Kodály’s biographer, Professor László Eősze, who was also the first Executive Secretary of the IKS; and of Professor Miklós Szabó, the very embodiment of the Hungarian choral tradition that so inspires us.

Their passing reminds us that we are standing on the shoulders of giants, and that the best way to honor and remember them is to let all that we learned from them live on in us as we pay forward their wisdom, inspiration and teachings to our own students. All three of them were happy, cheerful people who cared deeply and lived to share one of Life’s great joys with others: the best of music in its many manifestations.

Recently, I have been pondering the theme of our upcoming IKS Symposium in Katowice, Poland, Village Voices – Global Harmony. I came across an interesting media interview with Princess Caroline of Monaco, the leading supporter of cultural preservation and transmission in her country. In her own words, “I think it’s a right, like education and health. It’s a right. People shouldn’t have to pay for that or struggle to access culture.”3 That statement led me to think once again of Kodály’s famous statement that “Music belongs to everyone.” Following on, there seem to be three constants inherent in how that is so: Tradition, Timelessness, and Technology.

Princess Caroline’s definition of Tradition particularly captured my attention: “. . . I like to think that tradition is the transmission of fire and not worshipping of ashes. You have to keep on fighting that way, I would think.”4 In other words, our first joyful task is to pass on to our students the “fire” living in the songs, singing games, dances, and village customs and rituals from which we extract musical concepts. Kodály and Bartók were keenly aware of that “fire,” the very essence of the Hungarian people. Take for instance any one of their choral masterpieces, which are vividly descriptive of village life: Bartók’s Breadbaking and Kodály’s Straw Guy are examples of the unique genre they created to bring that fire into the schools and onto the concert stage. Many available Hungarian music teaching videos often depict school children enthusiastically re-enacting the songs and dances of a variety of village traditions. In my own teaching career, I volunteered for as much time as possible on playground duty in order to collect songs and singing games from children, who are often the most intuitive keepers of the “fire.”

The concept of tradition as “fire” rather than “ashes” further led me to think of Timelessness. Each of us in our respective countries, living in our regional subcultures and speaking our native languages and dialects, are a “living treasure” of our own culture. So were Kodály and Bartók, who stood in the present holding in one hand the ancient golden thread of thousands of years of Hungarian folk music, and in the other the emerging thread of twentieth century composition. They wisely recognized that their place in history was to tie the ends of those two threads together so that the timelessness of their culture would always inform the present and future. By uniting those threads, they invented the Axis System through which they could satisfy the demands of modern composition without abandoning what had come before, which meant that their audiences could always find themselves in their compositions.

The 2019 IKS Symposium in Kuching, Malaysia, still lives in my mind as a perfect example of how tying those two threads together is still a possibility for all of us anywhere in the world. It actually is something we must do, not only to make it possible to apply the Kodály Concept wherever we teach, but to perpetuate the identity of our own people up to the highest levels of musical artistry. As Kodály explained it: “From folk music the leap is very easy to the great classical music, whereas the so-called ‘light’ music never gives a transition to the big classical music . . . The two never come together in the same stream. Great classical music is a natural continuation of folksong.”5

Technology means many things in our present world, yet I wonder if we realize that perhaps the greatest of Kodály and Bartók’s discoveries were the ancient “technologies” of folksong and the oral transmission of it. Essentially, all of the raw materials of classical form and musical content are found in folksong as well as the simple to complex teaching pathways to grow musicians from childhood through adulthood. Even so, Kodály and Bartók used an Edison wax cylinder recording machine—the latest mechanical technology of their day—to record complex melodies they could transcribe later. For our part, we regularly use the latest digital audio-video devices to capture songs and dances still existing in rural villages, urban neighborhoods and school playgrounds, then computer software to render them in notation.

So now we have come full circle through our three constants: Tradition, Timelessness, Technology because the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. How fortunate we are to be engaged in such enduring work so solidly grounded in the past, present and future! Having such purposeful tasks encourages to use our own initiative and innovation to help us survive and thrive during these pandemic challenges.

With my heartfelt wishes for good health and joy in your daily life and work!

Dr. Jerry L. Jaccard

See Vikár, L. ed (1985). Reflections on Kodály. Budapest: International Kodály Society, pp. 85–94 for the full program of the symposium.
2Jaccard, J.L. (2014, 2016). A Tear in the Curtain: The Musical Diplomacy of Erzsébet Szőnyi: Musician, Composer, Teacher of Teachers. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., pp. 189–191, 199–203.
3 accessed online on September 14, 2020.
5Zoltán Kodály in Herboly, I. ed. (2002). Music Should Belong to Everyone, Budapest: International Kodály Society, p. 25.