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  • Writer's pictureJenny Ferris

IKS 2019: Embracing A New Era

A summary of my wonderful time at the 2019 International Kodaly Symposium in Kuching, Malaysia. This was also published in the KMEIA Vic newsletter.

If you are not yet a member of KMEIA/Kodaly Australia, you should consider joining. They even offer free memberships for music & education students!


From the 5th to the 9th of August, a number of delegates from all over Australia flew to Kuching, Malaysia to attend the International Kodaly Symposium. Many of us were presenting, several others just there to soak up as much as possible, but all left feeling incredibly enriched and connected to the wider Kodaly community.

Australian IKS2019 delegates

The symposium featured a bevy of international presenters, delivering a range of workshops suited to both early childhood/primary, secondary and choral settings as well as a few of Lucinda Geoghegan’s ever-popular Games Sessions.

There were paper discussions from academics around the globe discussing everything from whether Kodaly’s concept of “The Teacher” is relevant today (Zsuzsa Polyak) to the wonderful work of our very own Emerging Music Teachers Network (Carla Trott).

Every morning was kicked off by a Morning Sing under the auspices of Drs. Laszlo Nemes, Zechariah Goh, Alec Schumacker and Tracy Wong. Delegates were exposed to a wide range of repertoire and rehearsal techniques and all left buzzing to take these ideas back to our own choirs!

Each Morning Sing was followed by an inspiring keynote address. Dr. Zsolt Kormendy from the Liszt Academy in Hungary discussed the rapidly changing world in which we find ourselves and the need to adapt to stay relevant to our students. Dr Ramona Mohd. Tahir spoke about her work with the Bamboo Project and brought home the importance of preserving folk music traditions. Mr. Ko Matsushita from Japan spoke about his experiences with choral music and just intonation and his journey of inspiration to design a choral method using folk songs of the region. Finally, our very own James Cuskelly gave a rallying call-to-arms about the importance of music education and all of its wonderful by-products (such as helping with language development) and the need for us to adopt the role of advocate as well as educator.

Sarawak Cultural Village

A definite highlight of the Symposium was the day trip to Sarawak Cultural Village – a series of traditional longhouses where the various cultures of Borneo are represented. A number of presenters gave workshops on folk songs and dances from a number of South East Asian countries and language groups and delegates were also treated to a cultural show from the performers of Sarawak Cultural Village, which included an Orang Ulu dance which depicts a warrior and requires the dancer to pop a balloon from across the stage with a blow dart! The sounds of the traditional Sape (a lute particular to the region) followed us throughout the symposium.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Kodaly Symposium without a little choral singing and delegates were treated to several performances by a number of choirs including the stellar Hail Mary the Queen Children’s Choir from the Philippines whose superb blend and mastery of sound never failed to draw a tear to my eye.

The International Kodaly Symposium was an incredible opportunity to come together with like-minded Kodaly teachers from all over the world to share ideas, connect and discover that we have far more commonalities to unite us than any borders that may divide us.

The next IKS will take place in 2021 in Katowice, Poland. Mark it in your calendars to take part in what promises to be another fantastic meeting of minds.

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