Musical Education in the Czech Republic


1. Introduction 

Musical education in the Czech Republic is a part of general education. Its aim is to get the students ready to embrace the beauty and humanistic contents of musical works and also actively participate in musical life. It is divided into three specializations: musical education, special musical education and musical education of future professionals.

Musical education in the Czech Republic has a secular tradition. As early as in the 14th century in parish schools singing was compulsory together with reading, writing and sums. The world famous teacher Jan Amos Komenský /1592-1670/ emphasized the importance of music and singing having said that “music is the most natural thing for us”. In the 18th century in his book of travels Dr. Charles Burney, the Englishman, described the bloom of musicality in Bohemia. This relates to a huge rise of Czech musicians who significantly contributed to the development of European classical music. In the 20th century musical education developed under the influence of artistic education /Lichtwar, Ruskin/, reformatory pedagogy and the works of J. A. Komenský. In 1930 Prof. Dr. Vladimír Helfert published his work “Fundamentals of Musical Education at Schools of General Education” where he gave scientific reasons for general musical education. In 1934 the Society for Musical Education inspiring the idea to establish ISME was found in Prague. At the present time Czech Musical Society, Musical Youth of CR and the Union of Czech Choruses follow similar goals and unite music enthusiasts of all ages without professional limits.


2. General Musical Education


2.1 Elementary schools


Pupils from the 1st to the 9th grade attend one lesson of musical education per week. These lessons consist of singing and playing music, improvisation and physical exercise with music as well as listening to musical works of various styles - thus making them more accessible. This also involves joyful feelings arising from the contact with music and learning basic knowledge of musical theory and history. Musical education at elementary schools is a follow-up of the fundaments received in kindergartens where singing, listening and playing the music are closely related to the games and physical exercises.


2.2 Elementary Schools of Extensive Musical Education

Musical education at these schools /the current number of which is 40/ ranges from four to six lessons per week. This includes two lessons of general musical education, one lesson of teaching to play an instrument and one lesson of choral singing. Depending on local conditions two extra lessons of either chamber or orchestral music can possibly add up to it. These institutions feature outstanding youth choruses and cooperate with specialized teachers from elementary and artistic schools.


 2.3 Secondary Schools

In the first or the second year of their studies students of secondary schools can choose either musical education or fine arts of two lessons per week. Within the musical education they get into close contact with singing, listening and playing music. At the same time they learn facts about lives and works of composers, musical theory, forms, instruments, history of music and aesthetics. Education in the third and the fourth year continues in the form of aesthetic education including the theory and reflection of art and off-artistic spheres. Unfortunately, the aesthetic education is only optional. However, after the four years of musical education the graduates can choose this subject as one of the final exams.

Apart from musical education students have many opportunities to be engaged in music at school, e.g. taking part in choruses, orchestras or rock groups, etc.


3. Specialized Musical Education 


3.1  Elementary Artistic Schools


The network of elementary artistic schools /currently there are about 400 such institutions in the country/ offers to students the possibility of achieving special education in particular artistic disciplines /music, fine arts, literature, dancing and theatre/. Some of them become amateurs while the more talented ones can continue in their studies on secondary artistic schools and conservatories. Lessons take place in the afternoon’s free time of students. Concerning music they attend three lessons per week: one lesson of individual instruction of playing an instrument or singing, one group lesson of playing music or singing in chorus and one lesson of musical science. Students can compare their performances at concerts and advance exams, young talents can participate in renowned international competitions /Concertino Praga, Virtuosi di pianoforte, Kocián’s Violin Competition, etc./. Win opens the road to their professional career.

Attending the elementary artistic school is voluntary and so it is necessary to pay a small school fee. In addition to it there are also private artistic schools and private teachers of music in the Czech Republic.


4.  Musical Education of Future Professionals


4.1 Conservatories, Musical Academies and Universities


Education for artistic professions takes place at conservatories or musical faculties of the Academy of Musical Arts. Conservatories offer complete secondary education with graduating exams and academies provide the university degree – Master of Arts. Education of musical scientists and teachers takes place at universities. Studies are completed by graduation and students receive the titles of Master of Philosophy or Master of Pedagogy. In case of passing doctorate exams the graduates receive the titles of Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Pedagogy.


 4.2 Education of Musical Instructors and Teachers of Music


Education of musical instructors and teachers of music in the Czech Republic takes place at faculties of pedagogy /philosophy/ or at musical academies /to achieve teaching qualification for conservatories/ and deal with both practical and theoretical aspects. Studies of musical education for kindergartens consist of three years and students attend faculties of pedagogy /bachelor’s degree/; musical education for elementary and secondary schools is usually combined with studies of either a mother tongue or a foreign language and since 1900 there are also other combinations: musical education and instructions to play an instrument, musical education and chorus conducting - it helps the graduates to teach also at schools with extensive musical education and at elementary artistic schools – up to now musical academics have dominated in this sphere. Studies for specialized and secondary teachers last five years and for elementary artistic schoolteachers four years. Curriculum for elementary and secondary schoolteachers consists of four areas: 1. Musical-historic and aesthetic disciplines /history of music, musical aesthetics, folkloric science, musical sociology, music for children and youth/; 2. Pedagogy-psychological disciplines /musical pedagogy, musical didactics, musical psychology/; 3. Musical theory /science of harmony and polyphony, musical science of forms and analysis of works, instrument science/; 4. Practical subjects /intonation and listening analysis, chorus singing and conducting, piano, melodic instruments, singing/. Apart from that students can attend various optional courses, e.g. composition fundamentals, seminar on popular and rock music, music history, organ and harmonium playing, computers in music and teaching, practicing in orchestras and choruses.

Related training takes place in the ninth semester and consists of fourteen days at elementary schools and another fourteen days at secondary schools. Students achieve practical skills as early as in the fifth semester when they visit classes in order to get acquainted with teaching, school documents and organization.


 5. Conception and Methods

 Massive changes in material and mental life of our civilization also require corresponding changes in goals and contents of musical education. The educational principle aimed at activities gets closer to the ontogenesis of students – what is close to them, what they live for and what they dream of. A complex of musical-aesthetic activities and dialectic unity of reception, verbalization and creativity form such education. This makes it possible for the child to realize himself as a creative subject, an observer and a critic in the sense of the triad by Komenský – perception, thinking and acting.

This is the reason why greater attention has been paid to creativity and poly-aesthetic integration since 1970s. These principles have been compulsorily integrated in the teaching curriculum since 1989.


                                                                                                                                                                                   doc. PhDr. Václav Drábek, CSc.