Big Ideas, the Kodaly Initiative, and Sustainability

March 2016

By George Simpson, Coordinator of Visual and Performing Arts

This past week the Organization of American Kodaly Educators (OAKE) held its national conference in Long Beach, California.  I was pleased to represent CPS alongside CPS music educators Katie Bach of the Peabody Elementary School and Kelly Graeber of the Morse Elementary School.

CPS’ Kodaly Initiative represents a tremendous investment in our children and one in which the arts, namely music, plays a central role.  I hope to articulate the importance of this initiative to the various stakeholders of CPS, but to also cultivate the kind of supporting structures that promote its long term sustainability.

The Kodaly Initiative is based on a method of music instruction that uses singing and folk music as a means of developing musical skills beginning in kindergarten. Additionally, the use of movement, and music literacy--reading and writing music--is core.  In many ways, the Kodaly Initiative embraces the truest ideals of of social justice and reflects CPS’ commitment to the arts and democracy and eschews the widely-held belief that music education is only for the few, the so-called talented; music education is for all children.

As important as these big ideals are, research is definitive in its more tangible benefits to children.  Musical instruction, like that provided for by the Kodaly Initiative, promotes language acquisition in children and develops spatial-temporal skills (skills used often in math).  In short, children who participate in programs like our Kodaly Initiative have increased neural activity compared with children who do not have this experience; their brains simply work harder.

It is important for us to continue to measure our program’s effectiveness, ensure the professional development of faculty, and articulate the program’s benefits to supporting constituents like families, funders, and policy makers.  These elements form the basis of our efforts to ensure the sustainability of the Kodaly Initiative in CPS.

I am pleased that this is a shared effort by the following individuals and organizations: the Popplestone Foundation, providing essential seed funding for our programs to take root; a research team led by neuroscientist Martin Gardner, to measure the benefits of Kodaly on our students and community; and the incoming president of OAKE, Mary Epstein, who has recognized the success of Kodaly in CPS and has invited Katie Bach and students of the Peabody Elementary School to showcase this success at the national conference in Philadelphia in 2017.

Each of us in the CPS community should beam with pride at our collective commitment to our children. Whether we are connected to the Kodaly initiative directly or indirectly, we all have a role to play in its success.
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