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Denise Bacon grand dame of music has left us. Denise Bacon died this week. She was a pioneer of Kodaly concept in the USA. I only met her once, but it was quite a day. I spent a year teaching with Ingrid Kainen in central Massachusetts, and we became friends. Ingrid invited me to her home for lunch and a session in "Denny's basement" copying songs and swapping stories.

I remember walking down the stairs into the library with its floor to ceiling shelves of meticulously cataloged materials. Her library had that wonderful, dusty smell of Patelsons Music Store in New York. I smelled it a few years later when Gunther Schuller gave me an afternoon of his time and I went to his home.

It's been ten years since my encounter with Denise Bacon, and I remember more of how it felt than what happened. I would appreciate your comments and remembrances. She's one of those people I wish I had met again.

This is the email I received announcing Denny's passing. I reprint it here with permission.

November 14, 2013

Dear OAKE Members,
I share with you some very sad news. Denise Bacon - beloved friend, highly-respected OAKE member and influential advocate of the American Kodály movement - peacefully passed away on Monday, November 11, 2013.

Denise Bacon’s influence on the American Kodály movement was supreme.  She founded three music schools: The Dana School of Music (DSM), The Kodály Musical Training Institute (KMTI), and The Kodály Center of America (KCA). She has been credited as one of the earliest promoters of the Kodály Concept in the United States. 

Denise, known as “Denny” to her friends, was a parishioner at St. Andrew’s Parish in Wellesley, MA.  There will be plans for a public Memorial Service at the church in the New Year. Denny, a consummate musician, left very clear instructions regarding the music she wished to have at her memorial service. We will send notification out to the OAKE membership once a date and time for the service has been scheduled.  At this time, we will be collecting your personal stories, reflections and impact statements about Denise Bacon. Please send your completed reflections to: These notes will be compiled and sent to Denise Bacon's closest friends and family.

Denise Bacon and Rudolf Serkin
Denise Bacon's Life and Influence on the Kodály Movement

An outstanding pianist, Ms. Bacon was a frequent soloist with the Boston Pops Orchestra under conductor Arthur Fiedler between the years 1942 and 1962, and has extensive chamber music credentials as well.  Her many honors include the Dana Hall Distinguished Alumna Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Organization of American Kodály Educators (OAKE), two medals from the Hungarian government in 1983 and 1989, the  KITÜNTETÉST ADOMÁNYOZZA honorary award from the Zoltán Kodály Pedagogical Institute in Kesckemét in 1992, and a New England Conservatory Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.
Denise Bacon attended the Dana Hall Schools, which at the time included Ten Acre, Dana Hall and Pine Manor Junior College (now a four-year college with full accreditation.) While at Pine Manor she studied with Scottish-born pianist and composer Helen Hopekirk who also taught at New England Conservatory. She earned a soloist diploma from the Longy School of Music and then studied for six years, in New York, with noted pianist and chamber music artist, Miczyslaw Horszowski. In 1952 she graduated from New England Conservatory with a B.M. in Piano Performance and in 1954, with an M.M. in Chamber Music.

In 1957 she founded the Dana School of Music (DSM) which offered lessons in piano, voice, orchestral instruments, classical guitar and theory for the Metrowest community at large (boys and girls as well as adults.)

In 1966 Ms. Bacon taught a workshop in “Orff and Kodály methods.” After witnessing the overwhelming response to this new “method” she became determined to go to Europe and study it at the source. Later that year Ms. Bacon was awarded a Braitmayer Fellowship to study at the Liszt Academy in Budapest, Hungary and the Orff Institute in Salzburg, Austria.

While studying in Hungary she made arrangements with government officials there to bring a class of mixed-age children of her American pilot class to Hungary to make a film with Hungarian children in order to prove that American children were just as capable as Hungarian children to learn by this method. Her outstanding achievements with this class three years later resulted in a film that astonished everybody and raised all sorts of questions.

In 1969, through a Ford Foundation Grant, Ms. Bacon worked with Peter Erdéi, a young graduate of Budapest’s Liszt Academy, to establish the Kodály Musical Training Institute (KMTI) in Wellesley, Mass. The institute focused on teacher training and attempting to adapt the Kodály concept of music education to American culture. Its main areas of interest were research into American folk music, the development of curriculum and model schools, and the training of master teachers.

In April 1977, Ms. Bacon founded the Kodály Center of America (KCA) to continue KMTI’s pioneering work. KCA had wanted to enlarge its scope of activities by finding a proper repository for its growing accumulation of archival material. KCA established an intensive academic year program of its own, a highly successful summer program, summer courses in collaboration with the Kodály Institute in Kecskemét, and affiliations for master’s degrees with four well-established schools of music. It expanded its presence in the Boston public schools, produced new choral octavos and video recordings, and conducted research in the field of learning disabilities.

In 1993, a collection of Ms. Bacon’s speeches, articles and reflections were compiled and published in a book entitled, “Hold Fast to Dreams – Writings Inspired by Zoltan Kodály.” There is an extensive list of singing exercises, folk song arrangements, and choral octavos by Denise Bacon published by KCA and other publishers on the KCA website: http://www.Kodá In 1995, Ms. Bacon retired from her position as the Director of the Kodály Center of America, but continued to work on the KCA archives. Part of the archival material was to be sent to the International Kodály Institute in Kecskemét, Hungary; a more complete United States collection sent to the University of Maryland libraries. 

(Source of biographical information: "2010 Award Recipients." New England Conservatory. N.p., 10 May 2011. Web. 14 Nov 2013)

We deeply mourn this loss and are grateful for the dreams and lifework of Denise Bacon.

Respectfully submitted,
Kelly Foster Griffin, President


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