My name is Batya Levy, and I am the full-time music teacher at Wilkinson. I have been teaching music in the public school system since 1993, and have been at Wilkinson since 1998. I received my Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Toronto 1992, where I majored in music education. Music education is truly my passion. I also love math, and am certified to teach both music and math at the high school level.

The music program at Wilkinson is a vocal based music program that uses a combination of the Orff and Kòdaly approaches to music education. (See below for more information about Orff and Kòdaly.) Although the program is vocal based – voice being the primary instrument - the voice is just a starting point around which all the other musical elements are added: movement, instruments (xylophones, glockenspiels, drums, recorders, and an assortment of other ‘non-pitched’ percussion instruments), and body percussion.

Carl Orff (1895-1982) was a composer from Germany. His most famous composition is probably, Carmina Burana. However, Carl Orff was also passionate about music education and the arts. He developed an approach to music education that incorporates the elements of singing, speech, instruments, movement, improvisation, creation, and group work. The Orff approach is not a method, but an approach based on the philosophy that one needs to experience concepts through as many just mediums as possible (voice, movement, instruments, creation), in order to gain a deep understanding of those concepts.

"Tell me, I forget, show me, I remember, involve me, I understand. Since the beginning of time, children have not liked to study. They would much rather play, and if you have their interests at heart, you will let them learn while they play; they will find that what they have mastered is child's play." Carl Orff

Instruments and Orff - Although Carl Orff wanted children to experience the concepts through instruments (as well as movement, speech, and singing), he did not like the fact that in traditional instrumental music lessons, one has to master a lot of technique before being able to experience and explore musical concepts. This led to Carl Orff developing his own set of “Orff Instruments” that allow people to explore a wide range of music concepts without having to master a lot of complicated techniques. The instruments he created are xylophones, metallophones and glockenspiels, which come in different sizes (soprano, alto, and bass). They were inspired by the instruments in Indonesia that are played in Gamelan groups. In the Orff approach, teachers also incorporate other instruments that fit the criteria: Namely a wide range of unpitched percussion instruments (drums, rhythm sticks, etc…), and recorders.

Zoltan Kodály (1882-1967) was a composer from Hungary. He was deeply concerned about the low level of musical literacy in the Hungarian public, and believed that musical literacy was something that anybody could learn if taught properly, just like anybody can be taught to read and write words. However, he pointed out that deep music literacy went beyond just knowing letter names. To be considered musically literate, one should be able to look at music notation and think sound.

“The good musician understands music without a score as well as understands the score without the music. The ear should not need the eye nor the eye the (outer) ear.” Zoltan Kodály

Thus was developed a system of teaching deep musical literacy that was successfully used in schools across Hungary, and is now adapted by music teachers internationally. It has come to be known as the “The Kodály Approach”. The main principals and characteristics of the Kodály approach are as follows:

  • Music should be taught from a young age. Kodály believed that music was one of the most important subjects to teach in school.

  • Music should be taught in a logical and sequential manner, mirroring the way in which children naturally acquire language – putting sound before sight (or learning to speak before they learn to read).

  • The tools used in the Kodály approach are:

      • Sol-fa syllables (solfege) and the movable-do system. (Doh-re-mi-fah-soh-lah-ti-do).

      • Rhythm syllables (such as ‘ta’ and ‘ti-ti’)

  • There should be pleasure in learning music; learning should not be torturous.

  • The voice is the most accessible, universal instrument. All concepts taught in music should start with the voice.

  • The first materials used to teach music should be the folk music from the child’s country/culture. The sequence taught should mirror the frequency with which melodic and rhythm patterns appear in the child’s native folk music.