Géza Szilvay was born in Budapest in 1943. He studied Violin at the Béla Bartók Conservatory, Violin Pedagogy at the Budapest Music Academy, and Law and Political Science at the ELTE University in Budapest, gaining his Doctorate in 1970. In 1971, Géza Szilvay was invited to teach the violin at the East Helsinki Music Institute. Expecting to be working with a small group of advanced players, on arrival he found instead 68 very young beginners. And he didn’t speak Finnish…

In 1972, Géza’s first child, a daughter, Réka was born. She had responded to the sound of the violin before birth. The diligent and loving father had been making preparations of how to introduce her to music, so he started using these ideas with his new violin students, adding to them constantly. These concepts were naturally underpinned by the educational principles of Zoltán Kodály. In collaboration with his cellist brother, Csaba (b.1941), and also with ideas from their father, these materials gradually developed over the decades into the Colourstrings of today.

In 1984, Géza was promoted to the Directorship of the East Helsinki Music Institute. In spite of the initial language barrier, the Szilvay brothers’ teaching has created incredible results, as a large percentage of their students over the years (including 59 of Géza’s original 68) are now professional musicians. Réka Szilvay now plays on a Stradivarius, has performed as soloist in over 20 countries, and is currently the only full-time Violin Professor at the Sibelius Academy. But best known in Australia of Géza Szilvay’s beginner students is Pekka Kuusisto, who toured the country in 2008 with Musica Viva, in 2009 as Guest Director of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and in 2011 with Finnish jazz pianist Iiro Rantala. Pekka also performed “Winter” in the film 4themovie, and in 2016 is the guest leader for the Australian Chamber Orchestra Collective. Csaba’s students have enjoyed similar success over the years and the best known include Markko Ylönen, widely considered to be Finland’s finest cellist of his generation.

In 1972, the Szilvay brothers founded the Helsinki Junior Strings (latterly known as the Helsinki Strings), now regarded as one of Europe’s finest chamber orchestras. Scottish music critic Michael Tumulty wrote: “Elsewhere, stock exchanges stagger and currencies crumble, politicians of all persuasions rant and roar but in Finland two Hungarian brothers, adapting Kodály’s choral method of music education to strings, maintain an uninterrupted flow of superbly disciplined players – young fiddlers on the roof of the world – whose warmth of corporate tone would melt the heart of the snow queen and whose rapt enjoyment and quite stunning technical security imparted an infectious sparkle…”

After nearly 40 years of tireless work with their students, the Szilvay brothers retired in late 2010. Retirement from daily teaching of children simply means that they now have more time to maintain a busy lecturing and teacher training schedule throughout Europe, and further afield to China, the USA and Australia. In 2012, they embarked on a new project incorporating videoconferencing as a teaching tool, whereby in real time they work with Colourstrings students and teachers across the world.

Further reading

Henna Salmela’s article on Colourstrings on the Fennica Gehrman Website

Alicia Ninnes’s article on Colourstrings with reference to Géza Szilvay’s workshops at the Kodály Music Education Institute of Australia’s National Conference in Melbourne in 2010 (courtesy KMEIA Qld News, November 2010)

Géza Szilvay (above) and Csaba Szilvay (below)