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ISSUE 121 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/11/2008

Pedagogy event teaches bells, Kodály

By David Benson-Staebler
Staff Writer

Friday, April 11, 2008

The 10th annual Pedagogy Saturday event was held this past weekend, supplementing the music education curriculum and giving students the opportunity to hear from teachers and learn pedagogical techniques.

Kodály Master Teacher Sue Leithold-Bowcock led a workshop in the morning on a growing movement in music education based on the Zoltán Kodály methodology, which focuses on child development through music education. She brought the Kodály tradition to the Owatonna, Minn. school system.

Leithold-Bowcock spent three summers getting certified at an institute at Colorado State University and then began to incorporate pieces into her class curriculum in Owatonna. She mostly uses a computer with songs she has categorized by what musical elements they teach.

"We begin with the Anglo-American tradition and then move to the Latino, and then to African traditions and sample a broad world-wide range," Leithold-Bowcock said. "I teach music because it is beautiful.

Leithold-Bowcock discussed the biography of founder Kodály, the son of a family of musicians, who traveled throughout Hungary recording an anthology of Hungarian folk music. He was aware of music's role in his development and he matched the musical sequence with developmental sequences of emerging child psychology. His work enabled all educators in Hungary to teach music to all Hungarian children using the people's own songs. The Soviet government of Hungary incorporated his techniques into the elementary education system, which required 45 minutes of music education each day. Some of today's best musicians are the offspring of this system.

In Soviet Hungary, young talented musicians would often be prevented from playing sports so that their musical development would be uninhibited. Several talented Hungarian musicians trained in the Kodály method defected from the Soviet government and immigrated to the United States and began to reestablish the pedagogy in the United States. Approximately 30 percent of American music teachers are now trained in this method, and within the last 10 years, this number has been rapidly increasing. This system does not only use Hungarian songs, but can be adapted to any form of music.

The second part of pedagogy Saturday was an introduction to teaching and playing handbells presented by Darin Riedel and Stephanie Watson. "We wanted to put together an information session, because so many Oles go on to be involved in handbells," Watson said.

Riedel and Watson contacted music professor Linda Berger about providing an information session to students interested in bells. Watson thought that many St. Olaf graduates going on to careers involving churches could be better equipped in bells. Riedel and Watson focused on teaching leadership skills in bells and explaining how to make sure the groups of bell players are aware of the tricks of bell playing, such as damping, which is bringing the vibrating bell to a silence by pressing it gently against one's body while minimizing overtones.

Watson and Riedel were also motivated to do the presentation on handbells after learning that a Lutheran mission group has purchased a number of hand chimes for a group of communities lacking music education in Guyana. The mission group has sent several Oles to Guyana to share the wealth of knowledge and practice we have here. Hannah Bolt '08 and Levi Comstock '08, who attended the Saturday handbell pedagogy lesson, are raising support for a mission project to teach community bells and give voice instruction in Guyana. If they can gather enough inexpensive or donated violins and violas, they plan to start a string ensemble as well.

If you are interested in more information or supporting the mission in Guyana contact Hannah Bolt, Levi Comstock or Berger. There will be a handbell concert April 19 at 3:30 in Urness Hall.

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