Katharine Finlayson

2022 Award Recipient for Excellence in Australian Kodály-inspired Music Education: Mentoring

Nominated by Jarrod Schindler

Katharine is the current president of Kodály ACT. She has a Bachelor of Music Education degree with Distinction from the Qld Conservatorium of Music and has been awarded the A.MUS.A in both Voice and Violin. Katharine has been a primary music specialist teacher for 37 years.  

Katharine’s sequential, developmental teaching programs are based on the Kodály philosophy, reflecting her passion for singing. In 2011 Katharine received a National Award for Excellence in School Music Education. In 2014 she was nominated for the Katalin Forrai Award for Preschool Music Education which was administered by the International Kodály Society. In 2016 Katharine was awarded the Australian Kodály Certificate in Primary Music and she also achieved Certification as a Lead Teacher with AITSL. In 2021 she was successful in the rigorous renewal process to retain her Lead Teacher status.  

Katharine is the Executive Teacher, Professional Practice for Music and the Arts in the Belconnen Network of schools, ACT. Over the past 8 years Katharine has worked with a large number of classroom and specialist music teachers across a range of ACT Education Directorate schools, increasing their capacity to deliver Kodály based music education programs to their classes.  

Katharine established the ACT Primary Concert Choir in 2014 and the ACT Senior Concert Choir in 2017. The choirs are based at the ACT Instrumental Music Program and comprise students from ACT Directorate schools. Katharine is also the Vocal Director of Step Into the Limelight, the ACT Education Directorate’s annual Gala performing arts show.  

Response to Selection Criteria
Katharine is a highly experienced music educator who is dedicated to sharing her Kodály-inspired practice with her colleagues. In her role as Executive Teacher, Professional Practice, Music and the Arts with the ACT Education Directorate, Katharine mentors classroom and music specialist teachers in Kodály-inspired music education across a number of schools each year. This program was devised and established by Katharine in 2014 with the support of the Principal of the ACT Instrumental Music Program where she is based.

Despite the challenges of the past few years, Katharine has continued to support and upskill a great many of her colleagues across diverse communities – usually up to 30 each year – to deliver music education to their students. She develops a relationship of trust and empowerment with each mentee teacher by giving them support, time and space to approach the music activities and singing, in particular, when they feel ready to do so.

Much of her mentoring work is delivered as a sequential program of demonstration lessons for students in Preschool to Year 6. The teachers participate in these lessons alongside their students, gaining confidence in singing and developing strategies to implement music programs in their schools. She spends one or two days per week in each school in the program. In some schools, Katharine works with one teacher for the full day by mentoring them more intensely and building their capacity to deliver the program throughout the school when she is not present. In other schools she works with up to 8 classroom teachers per day, supporting and upskilling them to deliver music to their own class throughout the week.

Katharine highly values the role of the specialist music teacher but she also sees the impact that this program is having in schools where there is currently no music teacher as this position is not a compulsory requirement in the ACT. Classroom teachers are in a position to give their students daily music experiences and the teachers in the program frequently adopt this approach ensuring great outcomes for their students. Katharine provides lesson plans and outlines and she has recorded 120 of the songs which teachers can access digitally. This facilitates daily practice with students and also assists teachers to learn the repertoire more easily. Katharine also supports teachers to assess their students by providing suitable assessment tools and activities. The teachers work alongside Katharine to make judgements on their students’ progress in music.

As a result of Katharine’s mentoring, a number of teachers now work independently across their schools as music teachers. A large number of teachers share their practice with other classes and many maintain music programs with their own classes. Teachers regularly report increased confidence in music education and an enjoyment of singing with their students. In 2020/21 Katharine devised additional resources and video recordings for the teachers in the program to share with their classes during the phases of remote learning. She is currently adding to this collection of resources as it is useful for schools who have previously participated in the program as well as her current schools. Katharine also mentors teachers in the setting up and delivery of choir programs in their schools. She supports them in the selection of repertoire and rehearsal plans and leads demonstration rehearsals. In her role as Vocal Director of the ‘Step into the Limelight’ gala performance, Katharine mentors two conductors each year to lead the massed primary choir of 400 students, working alongside them to build their confidence and skills.

Katharine’s achievements in the ACT are transformative. She engages teachers with her skill and expertise, and allows them to feel confident in their work. Her pastoral care of mentees is uniquely evident, and she is highly respected throughout the teaching profession for her gentle and supportive nature.


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