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What is the Dalcroze Teaching Method?

January 5, 2012

Students perform a Dalcroze exerciseThe Dalcroze method, also known as Dalcroze Eurhythmics, incorporates the basic elements of music—rhythm, melody, harmony—with body movement, to provide a multi-dimensional approach to music learning. Unlike most traditional methods, improvisation is a major component of the Dalcroze approach and one of its three aspects:

  • Eurhythmics trains the body in rhythm and dynamics
  • Solfege (sight singing) trains the ear, eye and voice in pitch, melody and harmony
  • Improvisation brings all elements together according to the student's own invention, in movement, with voice, at an instrument. (Dalcroze Society of America)

Beyond musical intelligence, the Dalcroze approach engages and exercises several other aspects of intelligence. Musical games and experiments engage logical thinking. Eurhythmics appeals to kinesthetic and spatial types of learners. The social quality of music-making develops communication, feeling, and empathy. Dalcroze is fun! It has the physicality of sports, aesthetic appeal of the arts, and is mentally challenging, for all ages. Unfortunately, programs are not widespread, and where they exist, they are frequently for children only.

The Dalcroze concept of improvisation is close to the nature of childhood play. According to Dictionary.com, improvisation means to compose and perform or deliver without previous preparation; to compose, play, recite, or sing (verse, music, etc.) on the spur of the moment. Improvisation frees a child to relate directly and spontaneously to music within a range of musical knowledge. Improvising with full-body movement, singing or playing an instrument, helps the child internalize complex elements of rhythm, pitch, tone and dynamics without having to read a musical score. Through improvisation, composing becomes a personal and immediate creative act. A child enhances his creative spirit through improvisation and carries that spirit into his daily life.

Emile Dalcroze was a visionary 19th-century pedagogue. He did not like his approach to be labeled as a method. In fact, there is really no set curriculum. Teachers are trained in techniques and principles, which they adapt to the characteristics, needs and abilities of their students. Dalcroze certificates and licenses are conferred by master Dalcroze teachers who hold the Diploma from the Dalcroze Institute in Geneva, Switzerland http://www.dalcrozeusa.org/. In California, two established musical institutions that teach the Dacroze method are The San Francisco Conservatory of Music (415-864-7326) and The School of Performing Arts Division of The Colburn School (213-621-2200).

Kathy Butera is Lecturer/Supervisor of the Arts, Entertainment and Media Management Department at Columbia College Chicago. She was formerly Executive Director of Sherwood Conservatory of Music (now merged with Columbia) and has held management positions with the Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Chicago symphony orchestras.