Kodály's work as a teacher is like a theme and variations. Its central aim has been the creation of a national musical culture of European status, through the introduction of singing and solfeggio instruction on a nationwide basis and a great development of the choral movement. It recurs, sometimes openly, sometimes less explicitly, in almost all his writings and lectures; and many of his musical works were composed with a view to promoting the same aim. His work as a teacher, which began over fifty years ago in 1907 and still continues, shows an unbroken development. To begin with his main concern was the training of professional musicians; later, concerned with raising the whole level of musical life, he turned to the public, especially the youth, and set out to reform the system of musical instruction in the State schools; and finally he extended his work to the people as a whole. Thus, broadly speaking, his educational activities fall into three periods, which, though the last two overlap, may be considered separately.
When, in 1907, Kodály was appointed to fill the vacant Chair of Musical Theory at the Academy of Music, he was not yet twenty-five; and at the end of twelve months he took over the first-year students in the Faculty of Composition from the retiring Professor, Koessler. His appointment was a turning-point in the history of the Academy. From the time of Franz Liszt and Ferenc Erkel onwards a large proportion of the teaching staff had been Germans, amongst them such eminent scholars as Robert Volkmann, Hans Koessler and Viktor Herzfeld. Thanks to their efforts the Hungarian Academy quickly achieved a European reputation, but the language they taught in, and more significantly the whole spirit of their teaching, remained German. To change this state of affairs was the task of a new generation--a task that was achieved, not without difficulty, thanks to the efforts of such men as Ernő Dohnányi, Antal Molnár, Leό Weiner and, particularly, Bartόk and Kodály.
Kodály soon came to the conclusion that the educational methods of the Academy were failing to provide a thorough musical training; and the