Decided to post this in response to some queries on what studying at the Kodaly Institute is like.
Do note that the following information is based purely personal perspectives of masters studies at the Kodaly Institute for the academic year of 2011-2012 and should not be taken as official information. Do note also that the Kodaly Institute is always reviewing and renewing itself and modifications are made based on the recommendations of previous batches of students, so course structure or programmes may see modifications from year to year. It would be best to check with official institute administrators/lecturers or with recent graduates or alumni for the latest information.
What is the music culture like in the institute and in Hungary?
There are guest performers at the institute, performances by lecturers and/or their choirs in Kecskemet, and sometimes, buses are arranged for performances in Budapest. Performances are generally interesting and of good quality. Big names perform at MUPA every so often as well (Singapore’s Esplanade equivalent). Students who are looking for a platform to perform will find plenty of opportunities for student performances (both formal and informal) that are held regularly in the institute as well.
What is the course like?
Depending on what degree or emphasis you chose, this varies from people to people.
It would be advisable to bring over a (scholarly) collection of folk music that is unique to your country – there is a folk music course requiring folk music (preferably from your own country) analysis. Below is an excerpt example of a folk music analysis.
Otherwise, you probably can get everything you need from the library and archives – an absolutely fabulous collection of choral scores, recordings, books and thesis of past students. Depending on who has studied at the institute, there might be compendiums of folk music from your country that you can find in the library. It would be advisable also to bring along materials that you think will be of use to your thesis topic. Try not to start on your thesis too late but at the same time, keep an open mind and be flexible to adjust it… inspiration can come to you after observations in the Kodaly Iskola or in Budapest!
There will be plenty of opportunity to observe music classes in the Kodály Iskola as part of Methodology classes. For our 2011-2012 batch of Masters students, we had the opportunity to observe sessions for students ranging from early childhood all the way up to university level. There will be a ‘buffet’ observation in the 1st semester so that we have an idea of what is out there and can decide on what we might need more of later in the 2nd semester is an extended 2 week stay in Budapest for the purpose of observations. Prepare some spare cash for co-renting an apartment in Budapest. If not, the other alternative is to catch the earliest trains from Kecskemét to Budapest (the MAV train journey normally takes c.a. 1hr 20min) to catch the observations. It could be nice to stay over as the 2nd semester observations coincide with the Spring Music Festival in Budapest so there are plenty of nice performances to catch (i.e. no last train back to Kecskemet… MAYBE there’ll be buses that still run after performances but I’m really not sure). Methodology lessons take up a significant bulk of the course work as well, empowering one with various philosophy, ideas and tools to undertake teaching effectively.
A significant bulk of one’s time is probably spent on musicianship training aka solfege lessons. These usually involve dictation, sing and play (i.e. accompanying of self on the piano), transposition of given music material into different keys, playing different chord progressions etc.etc.etc.
There are also lessons in conducting-choral singing (selected students may get to work with the institute’s ‘lab choir’), voice, piano , score reading, choral repertoire, Hungarian Music History etc. There are also plenty of seminars, workshops and lectures by guest performers, musicologists and clinicians who add much spice to our lives.
There’s also the thesis to contend with. The final comprehensive exam is an exciting full day affair where Methodology, Solfege and Thesis defence will be done.
For more detailed information, I would strong recommend checking out the Kodaly Institute website.
What About Accommodations?
If you are the social sort who do not mind sharing kitchen cleaning duties (rosters are drawn up) and/or rooms with others, staying in the institute is good for you. The rooms are range from single, double, triple to quad-sharing. Each room comes with its own sink and mirror (I didn’t check all the rooms but I think that should be the case) and on the same level are the toilets. Showers can be taken in the basement and facilities are well-maintained. One of the biggest plus of staying in the institute is that all it takes is less than a minute to run upstairs if you ever forget to bring something to class. The cons are, if you are ‘sick’ for a day for whatever reason, it is kind of hard to be doing anything else because everyone knows (nice colleagues will take care of you).
If you are the sort that needs privacy, I would suggest that you stay outside of the school. Usually, this means it is more expensive and depending on the arrangement with your landlord, rent may or may not be inclusive of water, electricity and gas. Do note that heating during winter can be expensive and it seems normal (I could be wrong on this) that landlords pass on the gas increases to their tenants by increasing rent slightly during winter months when heating is switched on. Pianos can be rented from the school if your home does not already have one.
The Kodaly Institute faculty and administration that you would be in contact with speak excellent English so there is generally no problem in our safe, little bubble. Outside of the school, the locals tend not to speak English. Youngsters may speak some English or some other second language depending on their educational choices. The counter ladies at the vasútállomás (train station to Budapest) generally don’t speak English so it would be wise to attend Hungarian lessons provided by the Institute and at least be able to communicate what train tickets. The taking the MAV trains and its crazy ticketing system is an art in itself and probably deserves another blog post. Buying vegetables are pretty self-explanatory.
EVERYTHING is within walking distance from the Institute. It is 20 min walk to the Kodaly Iskola (school where observation takes place). Most other important places (see my other blog posts: Important Places for Kecskemet Kodaly Institute Students) can be reached within 10 min walk. There is virtually no need to take public transport whilst studying in Kecskemet unless you’re wanting to go to Tesco (megamart) to buy cheap scanner-printers or other stuff.
If you’re wanting to explore other towns like Szeged or Budapest, the MAV trains are available. If you hold student cards (they will be assigned later in the semester), ticket prices are 50% for student discounts. A return ticket between Kecskemet & Budapest costs 2200HUF. If you buy Intercity (reserved seats with air-conditioning), that’s an additional 380HUF (with an additional ticket on top of the normal ticket you buy). If you buy the Intercity seats from the train conductors, they usually charge almost twice more than what you would get if you bought from the ticket counter. Do note that for holders of certain scholarships, you may not be allowed to purchase student price tickets.
Check that your ticket is correct!
Ferihegy (Airport) – Kecskemét (self explanatory, from where to where)
50% kedvezmény (50% discounted price)
Egy útra – one-way ticket.
1. kocsiosztály (first class carriage)
érvényes: 2012.06.27 – 2012.06.28 (validity date, if you buy a return ticket, check the validity date… usually they give c.a. 3-4 weeks of validity in case you decide to stay in Budapest for long)
I had a fantastic time studying at the Kodaly Institute. The quiet town of Kecskemet is a very special place. Staff & students alike are warm and friendly. Quality of instruction is top-notch. I highly recommend it to all who are serious about teaching & learning. Serious practicing musicians will find it a challenging and useful course as well. Tata. 🙂