It is with great sadness that faculty and staff members of the Kodály Institute learnt about the death of Denise Bacon, founder and director of the Kodály Musical Training Institute and the Kodály Center of America. Denise Bacon was a pioneer figure, who played a significant role in making Kodály’s music educational principles widely known and adapted into practice throughout the United States. She will be sadly missed by her colleagues all over the world.
The Kodály Institute pays tribute to the remarkable lifelong achievements of Denise Bacon. Please find attached the obituary written by Prof. Péter Erdei, co-founder of the Kodály Musical Training Institute (Wellesley, MA), and former director of the Kodály Institute in Kecskemét, Hungary, a dear friend and one of Denise Bacon’s closest colleagues.
“Denise Bacon, American pianist and composer, founder of the Kodály Musical Training Institute/1969/ and Kodály Center of America/1977/, recipient of the ”Pro Cultura Hungarica” and the “For the Kodály Institute” awards, longtime resident of Wellesley, Massachusetts, died peacefully on November 11, 2013, at the Briarwood Health Care facility in Needham, Massachusetts.
She completed her education as a pianist at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. An outstanding pianist, she studied under Mieczyslaw Horszowski in New York City and was a frequent soloist with the Boston Pops Orchestra under Arthur Fiedler. In her long association with Dana Hall (1940-1969) she progressed from piano teacher to Head of the Music Department. She founded the Dana School of Music where she started her experimental work with the Kodály way of musical education.
Denise Bacon first met Zoltán Kodály in Dartmouth, New Hampshire in July, 1965, and this meeting became a pivotal point in her life. She realized that her mission in life was to improve the musical education of all children. She began by coming to Hungary – to the source – and there she studied the Kodály concept of music teaching under the guidance of Professor Erzsébet Szőnyi. She earned her Diploma from the Liszt Academy of Budapest in 1968. Soon after her return — in September, 1969 - she founded the Kodály Musical Training Institute and was its Director until 1977. In 1977 she founded a second institution, the Kodály Center of America and continued her work to bring quality music education to American children until her late eighties. She believed, as she wrote in her book Hold Fast to Dreams, “Kodály’s gift to Hungary and to the world will be fully understood only in years to come. That gift is great because the thought behind it was great. He believed in the dignity and worth of the individual human being and wanted every person to reach his or her own potential. This goal could be achieved only through excellence and high demands placed on the individual in every walk and category of life, whether student, teacher, scholar, or worker.”
Denise Bacon’s dedication never failed. Her creative spirit resulted in several experimental programs in the greater Boston area school system. As a result of her efforts there are today countless university courses all over the US wherein Kodály pedagogical philosophy is being taught. She was active in writing papers, song books, she regularly attended conferences and other meetings where she thought she could make her voice heard in relation to improving the American elementary school music education. Through her long professional career she has made friends with the founding director of the Kecskemét Kodály school Mrs. Márta Nemesszeghy, with Mrs. Sarolta Kodály and many distinguished pedagogues and artists all over the world. Although a controversial personality, she was known and loved by many progressive personalities of art and pedagogy all over the world.
Awards and honors she received included among others: Outstanding Alumni Award, New England Conservatory of Music 1984; Outstanding Achievement Award, Organization of American Kodály Educators, 1989; Distinguished Alumnae Award, Dana Hall School, 1990; Distinguished Alumnae Award, Longy School of Music, 1992; Honorary Member of International Kodály Society, 1993; Lifetime Achievement Award, New England Conservatory of Music 2010.
Denise Bacon’s life work is now an invaluable part of the overall development of musical education at large. We at the Kodály Institute of the Liszt Academy are especially grateful to her for her active help in the initial stages of the establishment of the Kodály Institute of Kecskemét.
She will be remembered by many who loved and respected her in the US, Hungary and many other countries all over the world.”
November 14th, 2013, Kecskemét