The History of Colourstrings

Colourstrings is a Kodály-based, child-centred approach to music education and was first established in the early 1970s.

The Hungarian brothers Professor Géza Szilvay and Csaba Szilvay, revolutionised music education in Finland to such an extent that Colourstrings has become an integral part of the Finnish state music school system. The Szilvay brothers have won many awards in recognition of their work.

In the 1980s a London borough Head of Music, George Steven, visited Finland and heard the Helsinki Strings children’s orchestra playing so beautifully that he found it difficult to believe how young its members were.

After discovering they were taught by the Szilvay brothers using the Kodály-based Colourstrings approach, George was so inspired that he gave up his job and started to teach in England using Colourstrings.

One of his pupils was the daughter of Pat and Andrew Wislocki, who were so impressed with the musicality and intelligence of Colourstrings that they joined forces with George to set up a teacher training organisation in order to promote the benefits of this exciting child-centred approach.

The Szilvay Foundation was set up as a charity to underpin the work of Colourstrings teachers by providing the highest quality teacher training to students and professional musicians worldwide. It has been training teachers since the 1980’s, and has educated thousands of children. Colourstrings teachers are working all over the country in a variety of situations, including nursery and primary schools, music schools, in private tuition and music agencies.

Kodály’s passionate belief was that “Music sheds light on those regions of the soul that cannot be reached by any other means.” One of the driving principles of The Szilvay Foundation is that music should be accessible to all children regardless of economic or social situation. As part of its commitment to bringing music into the heart of every community, The Szilvay Foundation is active in setting up special projects in schools.

The charity runs projects in private and state schools throughout the UK and Ireland and provides INSET training. Many local education authorities in Britain are now introducing Colourstrings into their schools.

The most recent development in the promotion of the Colourstrings approach is the launch of the International Mini Fiddlers Programme – this aims to enable teachers and pupils globally to benefit from high quality teacher training.

Since its inception, Colourstrings has become one of the most highly regarded teaching methods worldwide with an excellent reputation for providing quality music education for children, in an intuitive and enjoyable way, from music kindergarten to conservatoire level.

Geza Szilvay Colour Strings

Géza Szilvay was born in Budapest in 1943. He studied the violin at the Béla Bartók Conservatory and violin pedagogy at the Budapest Music Academy, where he graduated in 1966. He went on to study law and political science at the ELTE University in Budapest, achieving his doctorate in 1970.

Géza has more than three decades’ experience in violin teaching, at the East-Helsinki Music Institute since 1971, and since 1978 also at the Sibelius Academy. In 1984 he was appointed Principal of the East-Helsinki Music Institute. Géza Szilvay was presented with the prestigious Accent Prize of the Association of Finnish Music Institutes in 2005, and the International Kodály Prize in 2007. In 2009 the President of Finland awarded Géza Szilvay the title Professor; four years later, the President of Hungary presented him with the Hungarian State Award (Magyar Ördemrend Tisztikereszt).

The renowned Helsinki Junior Strings (at present the Helsinki Strings) orchestra was founded by Géza Szilvay and his brother, the cellist Csaba Szilvay in 1972. They conducted the orchestra from its inception until 2010, and recorded with the Helsinki Strings more than 30 commercial CDs (under the label Finlandia and Warner Music).


Csaba Szilvay Colour StringsCsaba Szilvay, born in Hungary in 1941, is a world-renowned cellist and pedagogue, and – with his brother Géza – founder and long-term conductor of the Helsinki Strings.

Csaba studied the cello at the Béla Bartók Conservatory, and the Budapest Music Academy as a student of professor Antal Friss. After receiving his diploma in Budapest in 1970, he moved to Finland to study at the famous Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, under Professor Erkki Rautio.

Csaba Szilvay taught cello at the Jyvâskylâ Conservatory in Finland between 1971 and 1976, and at the East Helsinki Music Institute since 1976, and the Sibelius Academy since 1978.

He and his brother Géza have gained international recognition both as string pedagogues, and as conductors and educators of children’s and youth orchestras. They are authors of the Colourstrings method of teaching music, which is based on Zoltán Kodály’s philosophy. They have given hundreds of lectures on this teaching method and philosophy all over the world, and there are more than 40 publications under the Colourstrings umbrella.

In recognition of their work for youth culture, Csaba and Géza were awarded the Knight Order of the Finnish Lion in 1981, he Culture Prize of Finland in 1983, the Hungarian State Award for Cultural Activity in 1990, the Culture Prize of Helsinki and the Fazer Music Prize in 1995, the Pro Musica Award in 1999, and the International Kodály Prize in 2007. The President of Finland presented Csaba with the White Rose Knighthood in 2011, and he received the Hungarian State Award (Magyar Ördemrend Tisztikereszt) from the President of Hungary in 2013.