Kodály Levels Programs

Hi folks!  Christopher here.

The internet has been a remarkable tool for professional development of music teachers.  From Facebook groups and blogs to M.A. programs in Music Education that operate fully online, there are an incredible number of ways to get new ideas and repertoire for our classrooms.  For music teachers, who are often the only music specialist in a building, it can be particularly beneficial.

But for those who are interested in Kodály-inspired education (or Orff or Dalcroze, for that matter), there is nothing like a Levels class.  These all-day, intensive classes are most commonly offered during the summer, and last either two or three weeks.  I took my Kodály Level I right after I finished my teaching certificate, because I scored a job teaching elementary music and I knew enough to know that I didn’t know anything.  I needed more goods.

On the first day of the course, I sauntered in, critically surveyed the class, then beelined towards the back of the room to sit next to those students who looked like they were the most likely to talk.  Fun: that’s what I was here for.  To be sure, I also hoped to learn how to be a good music teacher, but I definitely wanted to meet some awesome music teachers, and crack jokes in the back of the class.  A wrench invaded these plans, however, and that wrench was Rita Klinger.  As she started talking the first day, it quickly became clear that what was streaming from her mouth was not mere words and music, but gold – wisdom that, even as a 20-something, I knew that I could not afford to miss out on.  Regretfully, I bid adieu to my too-cool-for-school friends, moved to the front of the class, and never looked back.  The good news for my quest for fun was that the laughter never ended – at its core, Kodály is about joyful music-making for everyone, and I continued to laugh with my classmates and teachers.  To be sure, I was constantly challenged, and I worked hard to improve my musicianship skills and my teaching chops.  But that challenge helped me learn to hold myself to high standards as a teacher, and ensure that my students are both learning and having fun – the holy grail of teaching.

I’m here to say: Take a Level!!  And if you have already taken your Levels, consider going back for related study (and look down at the bottom of this post for some specific suggestions to consider).  As educators, we never stop learning.

What's in a Kodály Level? 

Zoltan Kodály said a lot of things (“Honey, have you seen my slippers?” probably came out of his mouth at some point), but when it comes to music teaching, one of the core aspects is this: That the best music teachers should be two things:
     - The best possible musicians
     - The best possible teachers
Both of those things, musicianship and teaching skills, are crucial to good teaching.  So, Kodály Levels courses address both of those needs, with five different classes:

(1) Materials, where participants learn quality music to use in the classroom, and study folk song analysis;
(2) Pedagogy, where students take those materials and create masterful lesson plans that maximize student learning but also have fun;
(3) Musicianship, where participants develop their own personal musicianship skills;
(4) Conducting, where participants work with master choral conductors to enhance their personal conducting skills;
(5) Choir, where participants sing in a choir, intended to create a top-level choral experience.

Where to take a Level?

There are programs throughout the country.  You can find a list of programs on OAKE's website.  If there is not one in your area, many of the programs offer fairly cheap campus housing.

Many of us who post on this blog teach in summer programs as well:
                                                   Westminster Choir College (New Jersey)
(That’s right, there is a trifecta there: Three bloggers from CSU!)

Aileen Miracle, who started this blog and is incredibly awesome, is taking the year off of teaching Levels.  If you are looking to take a Level in a future year, you might want to consider following her around to wherever she teaches.  I know that I want to!

 What if you already have your Levels?

For those of you who already have your Levels, education does not end!  To be sure, local workshops and national conferences are awesome, but there are other courses in a variety of places to consider, in order to provide new perspective on teaching and learning.  Some options: 

Revisit your old program.  Many programs offer “Refresher” courses, either formally or informally.  Pedagogy was my main love, and I came back and sat in on different pedagogy classes a couple of years after I finished my Level III.  There were tons of ideas that I had missed the first time around, that I understood more fully with the benefit of experience.  If there aren't official programs offered, contact the course director, and you may be able to set up something individually.

Try a new program.  Visiting a program that has different faculty than yours will often provide you with a slightly different perspective on the approach.  After I finished my Level III, I knew I wasn't done, and traveled to Calgary to see how they did it up there.  As a Levels instructor, I still try to get out to observe other programs when I can, even for a few days.  It allows me to get a better perspective on my own teaching. 

Other possibilities to consider:
  • Smithsonian Folkways Workshop in World Music Pedagogy: This week-long course looks at a variety of ways to take world music and teach it in K-12 and University music classrooms.  All courses include visits from culture-bearers, as well as practical experiences designed to help you take unfamiliar musics into your classes.  The flagship program is at the University of Washington, and this summer, a similar course is offered at West Virginia University.
  • Holy Names University in California is offering a four-day, afternoons-only class on Teaching Music Reading in the Choral Classroom.  
  • George Mason University (Virginia) offers a range of one-week classes on special topics including Folk Dance Repertoire, Dulcimer Building and Laban Applications for the Music Teacher
  • University of St. Thomas (Minnesota) offers a number of shorter courses that may be of interest to those who already hold Kodály Certificates, on topics such as Choral Conducting and Children's Vocal Development.
  •  New York University (NYC) is also offering a couple of shorter courses for those with experience in the Kodály approach, including a class on Advanced Curriculum and Pedagogy

One of the great things about music teaching is that learning never ends.  And there's nothing quite like summer coursework to help that learning occur.

Learn on!


  1. Christopher!

    Hi this is Mary Mickle from your Orff levels courses :) Hope I wasn't one of the "talkers" LOL!! I know I sure did have fun though while learning. I have been considering taking my Kodaly levels but my initial inquiries have found that it is terribly expensive to take Level One :/ Are they all about the same price? I inquired at Silver Lake and the price was something crazy like $2000-2500 and it lasted for 3 weeks. UGH! Do you know the average cost of taking Level One?

  2. Mary!

    So great to hear from you! The costs of courses really vary, I think -- I know that the one in Seattle is $725 (with an additional fee for credits, if you want them), and I think that the one at James Madison in Virginia is the same price. You might want to see which programs you're most interested in, and then compare costs. Expenses are a reality that we have to consider, unfortunately. Hope you're well!

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