Welcome to the pages of the International Leo Kestenberg Society!

The Society pursues the goal of making the legacy of the music educator, cultural politician and pianist Leo Kestenberg (1882-1962) accessible to the public and interpreting it in a contemporary way via current research.

Our board has set itself the aim of publishing national and international contributions to Kestenberg research and to the educational policy of instrumental and school music teaching, thereby stimulating and strengthening Kestenberg research.




Cordial invitation to the ceremony on the occasion of the naming and inauguration of the "Maria Leo Hall" at the Leo Kestenberg Music School, Berlin

The concert hall in the Haus am Kleistpark is the heart of the Leo Kestenberg Music School. On 18 October 2023, it will be named after Maria Leo in a festive act.

We would like to commemorate a pianist, music teacher and women's rights activist who was unusually courageous for her time: Maria Leo (18.10.1873 - 02.09.1942). It was Maria Leo who first helped women in the Weimar Republic to receive training as private music teachers.

The course of study she developed around 1904 made an important, reform-pedagogical contribution to seminar music teacher training in general. The modern music education system created during the Kestenberg era, the basic features of which still exist today, can also be traced back to Maria Leo.


Obituary for 
Menachem Pressler

One of the last living contemporary witnesses of Kestenberg was pianist Menachem Pressler, born in Magdeburg in 1923, who died in London on 6 April 2023.
Prof. Dr. em. Wilfried Gruhn, honorary member of the International Kestenberg Society, summarised personal memories of him in an obituary, which you can find here in German and download in English.


Jewish Heritage

Since spring 2023, the IKG has been an associate member of the DFG research project entitled "Strategies and Practices of Authorisation: On the Polyphonic Negotiation and Transmission of Jewish Heritage". It is part of the DFG's priority programme Jewish Cultural Heritage, which is being conducted at the European Centre for
Jewish Music (Director: Prof. Dr. Sarah Ross) at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hanover. For the term 2022-2025, the German Research Foundation has selected 11 projects from over 70 submissions.
The research project is being carried out in tandem with the University of Freiburg i. Br. (Prof. Dr. Markus Tauschek, Executive Director at the Institute for Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology and Director of the Centre for Popular Culture and Music Freiburg) and the Chair for Music Education at the PH Schwäbisch Gmünd, which Ms Henning will be replacing starting in winter semester 22/23. 

The society

The Society

The International Leo Kestenberg Society IKG is committed to the life's work of the pianist, music educator and educational politician Leo Kestenberg (1882-1962). 

As a Prussian ministerial official, he set standards with a progressive cultural policy. His innovative educational impulses led to far-reaching music education reforms (the so-called Kestenberg Reform).

 After his forced emigration in 1932, he worked in Prague and Paris and from 1938 continued his artistic and music educational work in Tel Aviv, where he became an Israeli citizen in 1948. The International Society for Music Education, ISME, elected him its first honorary president in 1953.

The International Leo Kestenberg Society brings together national and international activities for research into the life and work of Leo Kestenberg and his impact, and makes the results of research and practice accessible to a wider public. It thus addresses a historically momentous phase of music education and deals with Kestenberg's cultural and educational work against the background of current discussions.

The International Leo Kestenberg Society addresses individuals and institutions active in Kestenberg research or in historical music education research as well as all interested parties who wish to support the aims of the Society.

Aims and Tasks

  • documenting and researching the educational work of Leo Kestenberg
  • to record all of Kestenberg's publications
  • to cooperate with persons, institutions and archives active in Kestenberg research or in historical music education research
  • summarising national and international activities in research into Kestenberg's life, work and impact
  • making accessible the results of research and practice
  • establishing a global network for the creation of contacts
  • cultivating international scholarly exchange
  • organising academic congresses as well as in-terdisciplinary and inter-institutional projects
  • issuing publications on Kestenberg research


Membership fee

Membership fee

single member                              25,00 €  p.a.

students, PhD                                  0,00 €  p.a.

cooperative member                    80,00 €  p.a.

sustaining member           min.   50,00 €  p.a.



Leo Kestenberg

Israeli Music Archive

Israeli Music Archive

Leo Kestenberg

Leo Kestenberg


Leo Kestenberg (1882-1962), today one of the most influential music educators and cultural politicians of the 20th century, was an extremely versatile, far-sighted and passionate pianist, music educator and music politician.

For the free social democrat, music and socialism always meant an inseparable unity. As a music educator, he was filled with the emerging reformist educational ideas of his time. He believed in the idea of education for humanity with and through music, and from the beginning he placed the "general musical, the humanly vital above virtuosity and one-sidedness." Throughout his life, he strove "to find in music a means which can so directly influence man in his whole being that he attains a higher unity of himself." He was not a utopian, but a master of putting his ideas into practice in a practical and direct way.


What was Leo Kestenberg like as a person? How did he live and work? Contemporary witnesses from Israel, Europe and the USA, including Kestenberg's granddaughter, talk about their very personal encounters with the pianist, pedagogue and music politician.

They all got to know "Professor Kestenberg" as young people in search of their own path. He was a highly respected figure for them, but also a dedicated teacher, fatherly friend and mentor who inspired and opened worlds...


most of the publications are in german, few in english:

Gruhn, Wilfried (2004). Leo Kestenberg 1882-1962, in: International Journal of Music Education, Vol. 22 (2), 2004, pp. 103-129.

Maxwell, Philipp A. (2013). Leo Kestenberg and Franz W. Beidler : complete correspondence 1933–1956. Victoria, BC, Canada: Online Press. ISBN 978-0-9920618-1-


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