Ever since our founding in 1986, Melbourne Youth Chorale has placed strong emphasis on the development of musicianship and music literacy, using the Kodály concept. Our founder, Jean Heriot, was among the pioneers of Kodály music education in Australia.


Hungarian composer and educator, Zoltán Kodály (pronounced co-dye), who lived from 1882-1967, is a father figure of music education.  His philosophies on music education are the source of the Choir’s developmental and sequential music reading and aural program. They are:

  • Music is a prime necessity of life
  • Only music of the highest quality is good enough for children
  • Music education should begin as early as possible
  • Music instruction should be part of education for everyone
  • The ear, the eye, the hand, and the heart must all be trained together.

Kodály based his education around national folksongs (the child’s “mother tongue”). Because Australia is so multi-cultural and has no “mother tongue” of folk songs, we use carefully selected songs from a variety of sources to form the basis of our own musical culture.

The Kodály program begins with the music concepts that children perform naturally – when a child walks, runs and skips they are moving musically. Choristers develop their sense of rhythm through games that help them feel a basic “beat”. Becoming aware of how beat is extended or subdivided in familiar songs, especially by the use of “time names” (ta, ti-ti, tum, etc), leads very quickly to the ability to read rhythmic musical notation.

Children’s playground rhymes typically are chanted on two notes. The pitch interval between these notes lies at the heart of primitive music and forms the basis for a simple set of pitches called the “Pentatonic Scale”. To reinforce the distance between different pitches, we use hand-signs and solfa names (do, re, mi, etc). Singing using this scale allows each chorister to construct an “internal pitch measuring stick”.

The Melbourne Youth Chorale Musical Literacy program sets out a step-by-step order that choristers follow at their own pace. Over time they progress from simple songs and rhythms to complex tonal and rhythmic patterns that lead them ultimately to successfully sight-sing the most difficult of pieces.