Notes on the Hungarian folk music teaching practice


All the lectures of the seminar emphasized the topics of how to ensure quality in education
and the question of possible relations between the classical and folk music.
How to write a curriculum which is useful and meets the expectations of the Ministry as well?

In my opinion, it would be important to set the rules of such a unique Hungarian curriculum
which has already been adopted successfully in everyday practice by many of the teachers.
Still, when it should take on an official form, / e.g. curriculum writing / we can’t write about
the achievements and methods used in our practice because we must obey the criteria of
current musical education
I would like to draw the attention to this problem of those whom it may concern, and I would
like to require do not expect us to adapt to a system which is strange to the Hungarian soul.

I am speaking of the musical education in mother tongue, when in the same way as the tiny
baby is constantly listening to his / her parents’ speech, the constant listening to music
should also play a crucial role in everyday life .As long as you do not have a tune in your
head, or you cannot sing a melody, how could you play it ?
When we can hear the melodies with their features in our heads we can play them easily.
Similarly to the process of speech learning – when we know the words and the grammatical
rules we can easily formulate sentences, we can speak and we can express our thoughts.

In teaching Hungarian folk music we should apply the same good practices as they are applied
in folk music. I witnessed the teaching method of a fiddle master in Gyimes ( Romania ) – the
little child was sitting in the master’s lap, and they were holding the instrument together. They
were playing together this way. The emphasis was not on the sequence of notes, but the way
of putting their fingers on the instrument, the feeling, the appropriate strength.

Playing music together is another good method of teaching which I have also learnt from
the Masters. If we play music together in a good wedding or dance house the musicians can
feel how to serve the dancers, how hey can create a good atmosphere in order to be invited
next time too, but the most important experience is the secret of three people playing music

We should also consider the problem of an enthusiastic beginner who is eager to play on his /
her chosen musical instrument, should we force him / her to read and write music first?
I imagine this problem like claiming from a happy babbling one-year old child to sit at the
writing desk and ask him / her to hold the pencil and write the letter A.
Of course we can explain the necessity of reading and writing notes later, when the would
be musician has attained a certain level – he / she can see the importance of reading different
works and he / she can write down what he / she is playing.

The musical freedom that you get as a folk musician -through improvisation, editing free
tunes / melodies, changing keys, all inside the given style – is unparalelled even according to
the best classical musicians.
If we look around we can see that the Hungarians own a unique folk art treasure. Why should
we nurture from different cultures, or at least why don’t we nourish this value which cannot
be found elsewhere?
Curriculums are written without emphasizing the importance of folk music. Teachers teach
on the basis of their own intuitions, and we can not offer the hundred year old good practices
used in everyday village life as a role model.

In this traditional spirit I went with a four-year –old student of mine swinging for half a year
in order to learn from each other easily, or I started teaching Hungarian bagpipe techniques to
a five-year-old, which is difficult even for grown-ups, or I started teaching the most difficult
melodies to an adult beginner student – and all these techniques worked wonderfully – how
should I adapt myself to a curriculum which is based on teaching classical music, which
emphasizes totally different aspects ?

I feel that those practices that we have learned from the masters and what we have used so
well at Óbuda Folk School should be taught in every school within official acceptance.
These should have an advantage in teacher training and nursery teacher training programmes,
thus through education we should begin the folk music presentation even beginning with

Presently, a number of ensembles, including the TÉKA band and myself, – actively participate
in holding educational lectures named “Hungarian’s music”, we organize training courses for
kindergarten teachers and dance houses for little and bigger ones.
Every year we form wonderful communities within summer camps by means of music, dance
and crafts hoping that afterwards based on these experiences the participants will continue
fostering the Hungarian culture in his / her hometown.

In the country of Bartók and Kodály I can freely say that, unfortunately, only a few percent
of the people are familiar with the culture of his own people. On the radio, on TV, politicians
often proclaim the importance of our national heritage, but these are just words without
official deeds.

Therefore, I think our greatest responsibility is to do everything in order to save our national
treasure, the Hungarian folk music.
György Lányi
folk musicien
Budapest, May, 2001

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