Colourstrings and Sistema

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Colourstrings and Sistema

Mariesther Alvarez & Marielisa Alvarez, co-directors, Boston String Academy


In June we traveled to Helsinki, Finland, to work on our teacher certification in the Colourstrings method. Colourstrings is a method based in Kodaly philosophy that was founded by the Hungarian brothers Géza and Csaba Szilvay in 1972, just three years before Maestro Abreu founded El Sistema in Venezuela. The method uses colors for each string, and also picture symbols. It focuses on both the individual and the ensemble, offering individual and group lessons, orchestra, choir, theory, and kinder-music. Students receive music learning every weekday, and advance gradually through a series of skill levels, insuring their healthy development.

We have been integrating this innovative, child-centered method at Boston String Academy, and have been astonished by the results. In Helsinki, we visited the East Helsinki Music Institute, where the Coloursprings method was developed. We found that the more we learned Abreu’s about the Colourstrings approach, the more similarities we found with Maestro Abreu’s vision. Teachers in Sistema-inspired programs might be especially interested to know that many of the skills usually introduced at the advanced levels of traditional string pedagogy are in fact introduced at the beginning stages of the Colourstrings method. For instance, shifting and changing between positions starts very early; this provides immediate freedom of movement for the left hand. Sophisticated musical thinking and phrasing are also introduced from the very beginning, in order to develop the artistry of even the youngest children.

In addition, Colourstrings is the first method we have encountered that uses natural harmonics to develop technical skills. Octave harmonics allow the child to travel freely throughout the fingerboard, and are very useful for development of sound and bow technique, intonation, and tone quality.

We heard students from the Institute perform, and we came away feeling very inspired by how well those students are trained. They are technically free with their instruments; their playing is passionate; their intonation is pure. And the different musical colors they can create are mind-blowing.


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