Gail Needleman Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

By Anne Laskey

Gail Needleman received the Organization of American Kodaly Educators’ Lifetime Achievement Award during the 2018 OAKE National Conference in Oklahoma City. Gail has been a faculty member at Holy Names University since 1998 and has taught both graduate courses in the Kodály Center and undergraduate musicianship and theory classes. The award recognized Gail’s accomplishments in four areas:

  • Creator of HNU’s undergraduate music curriculumwhich features a unique, innovative Great Works curriculum that integrates all aspects of musical studies (history, theory, and aural skills) in relation to the greatest masterpieces of the Western musical tradition. Each course focuses on a period of music history as a basis for musical learning, while making connections with the music of other periods and other cultures around the world. This is then integrated with students’ work in performance ensembles and individual music studies.

  • Inspiring educator, reflected in her students’ increased academic success. More than 50% of HNU’s undergraduate music students now go on to graduate studies in music, in contrast with the past when fewer than 20% sought further education. Comment from a student: “Her carefully structured lessons naturally led my colleagues and me through multiple exercises and gradually to deeper levels of understanding of fundamental and advanced musical concepts.”  

  • Primary researcher and transcriber of songs on HNU’s highly acclaimed online American Folk Song Collection, which launched in 2004. A recipient (with Anne Laskey) of the Library of Congress’s Parsons Award for Ethnography in 2000, Gail has made six trips to the Library to research materials for inclusion on HNU’s website in the LOC’s Archive of American Folk Song. 

  • Translator of Hungarian choral works. Gail is currently working with Editio Musica Budapest to translate compositions by Lajos Bárdos, and to provide introductions to each song that elucidate the text based on readings and discussions with Hungarians. Bárdos is perhaps the best known Hungarian choral composer after Kodály and Bartók.

In her keynote speech at the 2017 International Kodály Symposium in Camrose, Alberta, Canada, Gail talked about the role of music in our lives and what we sacrifice if we fail to understand its essence in healing our inner, and outer, worlds. Her contributions to the OAKE community are inestimable and will continue to inspire those who seek to realize Kodaly’s vision in the English-speaking world.