The Kodály and Rajkó Methods: Voices, Instruments, Ethnicity, and the Globalization of Hungarian Music Education in the Twentieth Century


  • Lynn M. Hooker Indiana University, Bloomington



music pedagogy in Hungary, Zoltán Kodály, Rajkó Ensemble, Romani (Gypsy) musicians


Music is one of the fields in which Hungary has distinguished itself around the world, and music education is an arena in which Hungarian methods have had a profound impact. The basic principles of Hungarian music-pedagogical methods, developed by Zoltán Kodály (1882–1967) and his disciples and thus known as the Kodály method, are systematic instruction in sight-singing using “movable-do” solfège and rhythmic syllables, with the ideal of developing music literacy in all children through high-quality music, mainly classical and folk repertoire for choirs. Another type of well-known Hungarian music, so-called “Gypsy music,” is specifically denied legitimacy both in Kodály’s writings and those of some of his students, for two reasons: much of it is primarily instrumental instead of vocal, and it is considered “bad.” Yet Romani (Gypsy) musicians from Hungary have also become famous internationally, some from quite a young age. The Rajkó Ensemble, established in 1952 as the Gypsy Orchestra of the Young Communists’ League, brought Hungarian and Hungarian-Gypsy music to over a hundred countries over the years. Interviews with Rajkó members, some conducted by the author and some previously published, reveal those musicians struggling to claim the legitimacy not only of their music but of their music pedagogy, implicitly comparing the Rajkó method to the Kodály method. After a brief discussion of the Kodály method and its history, this essay gives some examples of how that method has dealt with talented Romani youth in Hungary; compares the Kodály method to methods of teaching instrumental music in Roma communities and in the Rajkó Ensemble; and considers how American ideals of multicultural education challenge some of Kodály’s tenets.

Author Biography

Lynn M. Hooker, Indiana University, Bloomington






Cluster Articles: Teaching and Translating Hungarian Language and Culture