Symposium in Kuching, 2019

Preservation & Innovation

24th International Kodály Symposium 2019 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia, 5-9 August 2019

"…where East meets West”

Delegates from all parts of the world attended the 24th Symposium of the International Kodály Symposium in Kuching, Sarawak. The theme of the conference, Embracing a New Era: Nurturing the Kodály Philosophy Around the World, highlights the importance of the revival and the ongoing relevance of Zoltán Kodály’s philosophy—developed in the 20th century—for musicians and educators in a 21st century context. Ms Susanna Saw, convenor of the 2019 Symposium states that, "there has been a five -year-long journey to devise the concept of the symposium which was designed to respond to the needs of music educators in this region, South-East-Asia.” Therefore, the organising committee included elements such as the Kodály-concept in teaching children with special needs, pop pedagogy, neuroscientific research and Kodály-pedagogy in 21st century. Ms Saw explains that the "Music scene in South-East Asia is so rich and colourful. We continue learning from the West but they have also started to notice the music scene of this part of the world. For example, the performance of Hail Mary the Queen Children’s Choir from the Philippines opens the eyes of the world. In IKS 2019, East meets West”.

Hail Mary the Queen Children's Choir performing on stage IKS 2019 , Moses Lim Photography

The decision to hold the Symposium in Sarawak not only provided attendees with impressive venues—the Waterfront Hotel and the colonial style Old Courthouse—but also allowed participants to experience the Sarawak Cultural Village. As well, many took advantage of the opportunity to visit the rainforest and to see the amazing wildlife, including the famous orang utan, up close.


Workshop in Iban longhouse in Sarawak Cultural Village with Jude Bautista Roldan & Maria Theresa Vizconde-Roldan, IKS 2019 Photo Credits: Teréz Tóth

The conference welcomed more than 500 participants: delegates, invited keynotes, carefully chosen presenters, choirs and musicians. Those involved in the Symposium participated in workshops, paper presentations, shared singing sessions and wonderful lunch and evening concerts. There were some particularly notable presentations: Dr. Pek Lin Chong taught Malaysian songs and dances that she had collected in forays to up-river villages in Sarawak; Dr Ramona Mohd Tahir outlined a project focused on the preservation and innovation of bamboo -based Malaysian instruments, Dr Indra V. Selvarajah describes the role community music therapy can play in the social transformation of Malaysia Baru through integration of people with special needs (Kodály-based Music Therapy), Gilbert De Greeve, Past President of IKS, shared a concert of Malaysian folk tunes with local singers and Hungarian pianist, Anikó Novák performed together with cellist, Khoo Wan Ru from Malaysia.

Evincing a spirit of life-long learning, global leaders in Kodály practice both shared their knowledge and learned themselves. Dr László Norbert Nemes, director of the Hungarian Kodály Institute says, "The adaptation of Kodály-philosophy in South-East Asia has shown features that are unique to this part of the world.” According to Dr James Cuskelly (Australia), Immediate Past President of the International Kodály Society, "The answers are here in the new world because here, they adapt to changes much more rapidly.” He adds, "This symposium proves that the Kodály concept is a persistent notion. It is adaptable, flexible and relevant in 2019”.

In the General Assembly of the International Kodály Society, delegates ratified the election of the new Board with Dr Jerry Jaccard (USA) as President, Ms Susanna Saw (Malaysia) as Vice President and new Directors of the Board Dr Miriam Factora (Philippines) and Dr Anikó Fehér (Hungary). Ms Lucinda Geoghegan (Director) and Ms Katherine Hickey (Treasurer) will remain on the Board as will Dr László Norbert Nemes (Vice President) and Dr James Cuskelly (Immediate Past President).

Susanna Saw. Photo Credits: Regina Chow

Congratulations to all involved.

Teréz Tóth