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Zenede the Birthplace of Musical Talent

The building bearing the name Zenede has a long illustrious history associated with music culture and music education, mostly because of the ties to the man that the building is named after, the composer and the children’s educator Zoltán Kodály.

Today the building is home to the Zoltán Kodály Vocational Secondary School of Music, a fitting legacy since he was deeply devoted to the importance of music in children’s education. He became world-famous for inventing a music teaching method that has been used ever since, all over the world to teach children music.

Picture from Méliusz Library’s virtual exhibition of „Kodály and Debrecen”

The History of Zenede

During the early 1800s, the musical life in Debrecen city reached new highs, in-part thanks to financial support for music-related initiatives.

For example, the citizens of the city supported Ferenc Farkas, an ironmonger who facilitated the development of the Péterfia Theater, he was supported both financially and actively by others who were also interested in music culture. Consequently, the Music Society (Zenedei Egylet) started under his guidance and thanks to his supporters. 

In 1861, the Music society founded  “Zenede” (City Music Center). It operated from six rooms in Count Imre Dégenfeld’s palace, up until his death in 1890. After his death, the institution had to look for a new home and moved temporarily to a building on the corner of Czegléd (Kossuth Street) – Batthyány Street.

The director of Zenede at that time was Emil Simonffy’s and his preference for a new home was a corner plot on Csapó and Vár street. As president and notary of the society, he purchased the land and put out a call to tender for building plans and sketches. István Tóth, who was also responsible for the reconstruction works at Dégenfeld and Tisza Palace, won the two-round competition.


The palace of Zenede was built in 1894 with the aim to institutionalize musical education in the city.  It was a one-storeyed corner building with a high-roof design, keeping the Italian Renaissance and Neo-Renaissance style. From Vár street, a vestibule completely dedicated to Zenede led to the building. At the entrance, two black marble plaques captured the details of the Zenede and the history of the building.

The classrooms were heated with porcelain and Friedland stoves and equipped with air-ventilation. American parquet flooring and ventilators. The ceiling height of the classrooms was 4 meters.  Pictures of composers lined the walls of the corridors, in ornate frames.

Zenede becomes the “birthplace” of vocal and instrumental music in the city, as well as the trendsetter of Debrecen music culture. In its first year of operation, it had 270 students. 75 years later the number of students was 900. 

Zenede gained its current appearance after a second storey was built on it in 1927. In 2019, the building underwent a major renovation. The works included restoration of the exterior facade of the historic building, back to its original state, thermal insulation was installed on the inside, as well as on the exterior of the inner courtyard and the slab.

Zenede, the music school in Debrecen, is the only school in the country bearing the name of Zoltán Kodály, in remembrance of the contribution of the famous Hungarian composer.