Dmitri Kabalevsky and Music Education within the Canon of the Socialist Model in the Soviet Union

By Charkiolakis, Alexandros | Review of Artistic Education, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Dmitri Kabalevsky and Music Education within the Canon of the Socialist Model in the Soviet Union


Charkiolakis, Alexandros, Review of Artistic Education


Apart from his work as a composer, Dmitri Kabalevsky has been proved quite active in matters concerning music education. In fact, this has been his main activity for a series of years after his establishment as a key-composer and key-player in the artistic life of the USSR. His serious occupation with education matters was capstoned by his appointment as a member of the board in the advisory and scientific committee of the Ministry of Education responsible for the subject of music in secondary education. He held this position from 1954 up to the end of his career [i] and it was not a coincidence that Dmitri Kabalevsky was honored with the title of Emeritus President of the International Society for Music Education (ISME), a title that he retained from 1972 up to his death in 1987 [ii].

His interest on children and their connection to music but also music education in general has been constant and long lasting. One should not neglect the fact that this is also evident in his compositional efforts. A brief look in his catalogue of works can prove interesting. Kabalevsky composed the Piano Concerto no. 4 "for the Youth ", many songs for children's choir, children's pieces for piano and many works such as the Requiem, op. 72, Parade for the Youth, op. 31, On the Motherland, op. 82 where he uses a children's choir. It's obvious then that the composer was actually interested in the active participation of children in the music process. Even on the early stages of his career, Kabalevsky composed music for children. His early work Album of children 's pieces for piano, op. 3 might have been a product of his output as a teacher, [iii]

The composer offers an all-around impression of his thoughts towards the subject of music education in his book Music and education: a composer writes about musical education. The main target of the book is to show to teachers in what way one might enrich his teaching methods and consecutively create a more appealing learning environment for students. There are plenty of interesting topics discussed in which the reader can focus on. For the shake of our research though it is important to try and detect all those political ideas that exist and, more importantly the way these are expressed within the environment of the Soviet Union of that period. Here, it would be quite useful to see what professor Ludmilla Turkevich states in her article "Soviet Education", where her opinion is presented on matters that touch upon the organization of the soviet education system. One should start from her statement: "Reading material, at all levels, is not made for intrinsic value or out of a real quest for information, but for its adaptibility to Communist interpretation. Selections, be they in history, literature, art, or music, must show how much better the Soviet Union and the Communist system is than anything else" [iv]. Turkevich's aspect outlines the environment in which the general educational practices of the Soviet Union have been generated. These educational efforts but also the political rhetoric seemed to be dominating music education, which is the part of the educational process that we are interested in, especially the one that was being offered throughout primary and secondary education.

The efforts of the composer for a better institutionalization of the Soviet music education found room to flourish and Kabalevsky was lucky enough to live to see the creation, after a proposal of his, of the Workshop for Music Education by the Research and Scientific Centre for Schools, a formal department of the Soviet Ministry of Education [v]. In David Forrest's article one can read that "this workshop by Kabalevsky and a team of experts and music teachers started working on the development and the experimental function of a new curriculum for public schools", [vi]

One of the most important issues that Kabalevsky touches upon his book is his philosophical views on the matters of musical creation. …

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