Zoltán Kodály (pronounced Co-Dye) was born in Kecskemét, Hungary in 1882 and lived in the Modern Period.
Kodály's father worked for the state railroad so his family moved around a lot when he was a kid. Kodály's father played the violin and his mother played the piano.
When he was in elementary school the Kodálys lived in the Galánta area of Hungary. Galánta was well known for its musicians, folk music and folk dances. Kodály loved the years he lived in Galánta and continued to love folk music his whole life.
When Kodály was around 10 his family moved to Nagyszombat (which is now in Slovakia) where he took violin, piano, viola and cello lessons and sang in Church choir. Singing in the choir was really important to Zoltán and he continued to love choral music for the rest of his life.
Kodály composed his first overture at the age of 15 and entered the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest in 1900, where studied composition and learned to be a music teacher. While he was in the Academy he learned about all types of music but he never forgot his love of Hungarian folk music. He started using folk songs in his compositions to create a new type of music.
In 1905 Kodály and his friend Béla Bartók (also a famous composer) began to collect Hungarian folksongs. That meant that they went into villages and recorded people singing songs. This was their way of preserving Hungarian culture. Remember that recording sound was a pretty new idea at that time and recording wasn't easy.
In 1910 Kodály married Emma Gruber who was 20 years older than he was! Emma loved folk music and helped Zoltán with his work. They were happily married for 48 years!
In 1923 Kodály wrote Psalmus Hungaricus (Hungarian Psalms) for a concert to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the union of Buda and Pest (to become the city Budapest). This piece was a big success and he travelled all over Europe to conduct performances of his music. In 1926 he wrote Háry János, an opera based on a folk tale.
During the years of World War II, Kodály wrote the Missa Brevis (Short Mass). The work was first played in the coatroom of the Budapest Opera House while the city was under siege in February 1945. It was dedicated Emma, in celebration of the Kodálys 35th wedding anniversary.
Kodály also wrote lots and lots of choral music for children. He believed that children were very important and that they deserved the best music that he could write
The Kodály Method
Kodály spent a lot of time writing and talking about the best way to teach music to children. He believed that music belonged to everyone and that music should be taught in schools, not only to children who could afford after school lessons. Kodály said that kids should love music and be able to read and write it. He thought that the best way to being to understand music was through folk songs and singing games. Kodály's ideas became the Kodály Method which is used all over the world today.
Kodály retired from teaching in the Academy when he was 60 years old and spent the rest of his life touring around the world, conducting and sharing his ideas about music education. In 1958 Emma passed away at the age of 95. A year later, Kodály married Sarolta Péczely, a 19-year-old student at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music. Sarolta dedicated herself to helping Zoltán with his work and they lived together happily until his death in 1967 at the age of 84.