Walter Bitner

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Monthly Archives: May 2015

The End of the Season

The Nashville Symphony Chorus assembled moments before a performance of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem, Op. 66, May 29, 2015

The Nashville Symphony Chorus assembled moments before a performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, Op. 66, May 29, 2015

For months the chorus met to learn their parts,
Taking time from family, work, and school;
Bolting a snack on the way to rehearsal
To arrive in their seats in time for the downbeat.
The orchestra’s sound only imagined,
Or for those to whom this weekly work has come
To hold a place of honor in their lives,
A memory of previous performances.


Side By Side 2015

Nashville Symphony concertmaster Jun Iwasaki & Curb Youth Symphony violinist Maggie Kasinger backstage before the annual Side-By-Side concert, May 22, 2015

Nashville Symphony Concertmaster Jun Iwasaki & CYS Principal Second Violin Maggie Kasinger backstage before the annual Side-By-Side concert, May 21, 2015

This week the Nashville Symphony was joined by students from Curb Youth Symphony, Carol Nies, director, for our annual Side-By-Side Concert, featuring a truly massive combined orchestra on stage in Laura Turner Hall for a day of rehearsals on Wednesday and the performance on Thursday night.  The orchestra was conducted by Nashville Symphony Assistant Conductor Vinay Parameswaran on performances of Rossini’s Overture to William Tell, the third movement of the Violin Concerto No. 3 by Camille Saint-Saëns featuring 2015 Curb Competition winner Kaili Wang, and the Finale from Symphony No. 2 by Jean Sibelius.  The concert closed with a performance of Tchaikovsky’s masterful Romeo and Juliet Overture, conducted by Nashville Symphony Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero.

Spirits were high in the hall as symphony musicians were joined by teenagers from throughout Middle Tennessee – for many of our musicians this annual event is nostalgic and special as so many of them played in youth orchestras themselves when they were in high school.


Nashville Symphony Formalizes Partnership With NSA

from my Instagram feed: NSA dancers wait for their cue during a performance of Swan Lake with the Nashville Symphony at Schermerhorn, February 11, 2015

from my Instagram feed: NSA dancers wait for their cue during a performance of Swan Lake with the Nashville Symphony at Schermerhorn, February 11, 2015

This week Nashville Symphony Education staff met with Oceana Sheehan, Assistant Principal of Nashville School of the Arts, and Bob Kucher, Director of Secondary Partnerships and Programs at the PENCIL Foundation, to formalize the partnership between the symphony and the school.  It was a relatively simple process and in fact a pleasant one: we filled out some paperwork and discussed our plans for the ongoing collaboration between the two institutions next season.

Although not existing “on paper” until now, the symphony and NSA have in fact had a rich and dynamic partnership for several years now: both institutions collaborate on many events and projects throughout the year that occur both at Schermerhorn and at the school’s campus on Foster Road.


How Anna Joined The Symphony

This is the story of how Anna joined the Nashville Symphony.

Nashville Symphony Principal Keyboard player Robert Marler takes Anna for a test drive on the stage of Laura Turner Hall

Nashville Symphony Principal Keyboard Robert Marler takes Anna for a test drive on the stage of Laura Turner Hall

It’s a bit of a convoluted tale – like many stories, some unexpected things happened, one thing led to another, and once you start trying to find all the threads in the fabric you realize that the real beginnings probably go back a lot further than you originally thought.

Anna is a ten year old double-manual Franco-Flemish harpsichord.


Keith Jarrett Turns 70

21757_10153253036611182_720963245581439156_nKeith turns seventy today.  For those reading this who are not familiar with him, Keith Jarrett is an American treasure, and one of the most important musicians alive today.  He is among the most accomplished improvising musicians in history and we are fortunate that we live in the age of recording technology: we have a voluminous record of his career spanning nearly five decades that catalogs his development as an artist, as well as many of his experiments and side-projects.  In addition to his stature now as senior jazz statesman, Keith is also an accomplished performer of classical music, with many recordings of Bach and Mozart, etc. as well as music of 20th century composers (including himself) to his credit.

I realize that beginning a post with superlatives is contentious, but considering Keith and his life as a musician, it seems fitting to me – he has been nothing if not controversial.  Through his entire career Keith has very much followed his own path, refusing to compromise on his ideals even to his own detriment.  Looking back on his career as he enters his eighth decade, I am not familiar with any other pianist who has accomplished such profound music-making as both jazz and classical artist.  I am aware of no other musician of any genre or instrument who has filled concert halls consistently for decades with audiences who come to hear completely improvised solo concerts, led several acclaimed jazz ensembles including the longest lived (more than 30 years) and most respected piano trio still performing today, and devoted a substantial amount of time (more than a decade) and energy to recording and performing classical music, as a soloist and concerto performer, and as a composer.  There is nobody else who has done this, nor done it so well, nor for so long.


One on a Part

Or, Making Lemonade at the Symphony

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When the ice storm hit Nashville in February 2015, schools were closed for more than a week.  Two weeks later – at the beginning of March – schools were closed again for a snow storm.  As a result, the Nashville Symphony had to cancel three mornings of Young People’s Concerts at Schermerhorn and a run-out concert to a local high school: we missed 7 performances, which would have put the orchestra in front of around 10,000 students total.

When the weather had passed and all the staff were able to get back in the hall at the same time we held a meeting to comb the calendar for the possibility of making up these canceled events – our Young People’s Concerts (YPCs) are the symphony’s flagship education program, an important component in the execution of our education mission.  Usually these concerts are scheduled more than a year in advance, due to the difficulty in finding times when the availability of the orchestra, the conductor, scheduled guest artists, the MNPS school calendar, and the hall all line up and allow time not only for performances but rehearsals also.  Young People’s Concerts are written into the initial schedule for the orchestra each year for this reason – it’s nearly impossible to find adequate dates and times when all these elements align mid-season.

And so it proved.