Personal Reflections on the Kodály Experience

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Joel Copeland, KMEIA ACT President

It was a chilly Canberra morning at Radford College early term 2, 2007, when I witnessed something that would change the way I approached music education forever! The current Head of Music and my mentor teacher, Mathew Irving, had taken me in to observe a Year 5 Music class. Little did I know I was about to be well and truly thrown into the deep end! I observed: singing and dancing; moving and creating; fun and games; individual and team work; small and big challenges; reading and writing; singing out loud and singing in silence; and importantly, lots of laughter. Plenty of laughter!

In the debrief after this lesson, I first heard of this person named Kodály and with great interest I was informed by Mathew about Kodály’s philosophy, that is:

  • singing should form the basis of all music education
  • musical literacy is of great importance
  • musical elements should be introduced sequentially
  • use the best teaching materials available.
  • everyone has the right to a good quality music education.


And so began my personal quest to become the best musician and music educator that I could possibly be.

This quest has led me to where I am today, the Head of Co-curricular Music and Instrumental Studies at Radford College in Canberra. I teach students from lower primary through to senior school; and have had experiences teaching abroad. This year I received the great honor of being elected President of the ACT branch of KMEIA as well as President of ACTMEN (ACT Music Educators Network).

Another important lesson I’ve learnt from Mathew is that music educators need to stick together. We need to embrace opportunities to: network; share our teaching and learning experiences; celebrate our successes; and reflect on our failures. From this idea began my association with KMEIA ACT.

At my first committee meeting I had the privilege to meet Ann Clifton, an experienced and knowledgeable educator, who most importantly displays a great passion for music education and teaching children. To this day, I have yet to witness this passion again!

Ann challenged me to open my mind to the possibility of a world where music education is a highly valued and respected pursuit. She challenged me to push myself further, to continue to reflect on my practice and improve my own musicianship.

I will be forever grateful to both Mathew and Ann for guiding me towards a method of music education that has the ability to transform and shape lives, as it has done my own.

Leading the KMEIA ACT committee in 2013 has been both a great honor, as well as an enormous responsibility for me. Immediate past president, Ann Clifton, has done an incredible job of building the Kodály network in the ACT over the past 8 years. She has facilitated countless opportunities for professional learning for music teachers in Canberra, whilst continually building relationships across all school sectors.

In 2013, the KMEIA ACT committee has worked extremely hard to provide a range of professional learning opportunities for music educators in Canberra. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the committee in 2013 and am excited about what the future holds for KMEIA ACT. I am extremely blessed to be able to work with the experienced and talented ACT committee. Their passion and determination for advocating the Kodály philosophy is inspiring!

I have also had the privilege of sitting on the KMEIA National Council in 2013. This has been an exciting and enlightening experience for me, one of which I would highly recommend to interested Kodály music educators in Australia. It has been an opportunity to engage in a professional association that places a high value on quality music education for all students.

This hard working council is led by the fabulous Tess Laird whose passion, commitment and determination has inspired me to strive to achieve greatness in the ACT. I would like to thank Tess and the council for welcoming me in 2013 and I look forward to continuing my involvement on the council in the future.

I feel privileged and honored to have been mentored, taught and ultimately inspired by some incredible people throughout my short but rich career. As a musician and music educator I value continued learning and my involvement in these networks have strengthened my knowledge and enhanced my enthusiasm to inspire the children in my care.

If I can be half as inspiring and influential in the lives of my students and other music educators as my heroes have been in mine, then my life will truly have meaning!

“We teach children. Music is what we learn together with them”. (Kodály)


copeland_joelJoel Copeland obtained a BEd (Secondary Music) from the University of Canberra/Australian National University in 2007 and has been an exponent of the Kodály philosophy throughout his teaching career.  As the Head of Co-curricular Music and Instrumental Studies at Radford College, Joel is committed to outstanding educational achievement.  He has directed choirs, bands, orchestras and ensembles across all year levels and was heavily involved in the development and implementation of an inquiry-based music curriculum in the Radford Junior School.  Joel spent 18 months abroad taking up the post of Assistant Director of Music at Kent College Canterbury.  As President of the ACT Music Educators Network and KMEIA ACT Joel is a passionate advocate for Music Education.

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