Walter Bitner

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Monthly Archives: August 2015

Alive Inside

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 1.44.39 PMLast night I had the good fortune to attend a screening of the remarkable documentary Alive Inside by filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett.  The screening was hosted at the Belcourt Theatre by the Nashville Chapter of The Recording Academy and City Drive Films.  Directly following the film was a lively panel discussion including the filmmaker himself that fielded questions and enthusiastic comments from members of the audience representing a variety of Music City interests ranging from music industry to healthcare.

A moving testament to the power and importance of music in the lives of human beings, Alive Inside is the story of social worker Dan Cohen’s work bringing music to patients in American nursing homes, and the dynamic – at times astounding and tear-jerking – effects this work has had towards awakening patients with dementia to the world around them, and to their loved ones.  The film won the Audience Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.


Is It A Fiddle Or A Violin?


(l to r) David Coe and Matt Combs perform for a group of students attending Is It A Fiddle Or A Violin? at Schermerhorn Symphony Center

Today our unique program Is It A Fiddle Or A Violin? – a collaboration with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum – begins its ninth season.

Targeted at students in Kindergarten through Fifth Grade, this free two-hour program provides children and their chaperones with tours of both Schermerhorn Symphony Center and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and features a musical presentation and dialogue by two local musicians about the employment of the violin (or fiddle!) in both classical and country music.  Thousands of children have attended this program over the years, in what are often their first experiences at two of Nashville’s most important cultural venues.

David Coe and Matt Combs – two local musicians who have been with the program since the beginning – largely co-wrote the featured presentation which gives the program its title.  I sat down with David and Matt earlier this year to talk about Is It A Fiddle Or A Violin? (more…)

Curb Concerto Competition 2016

IMG_4123Dear interested students, parents, and teachers,

This is an open letter discussing some policy changes (changes to the rules) for the annual Curb Concerto Competition at Schermerhorn Symphony Center this season.  Student musicians who are considering auditioning for the competition – which will be held on March 5 & 6, 2016 – are advised to read carefully through these changes, as are their teachers and anyone else involved in helping students prepare for this event.

Click here to access the complete guidelines and calendar regulating the competition posted on the Nashville Symphony website.  Please refer to this webpage for many details not discussed in this letter.  The purpose of this letter is to draw your attention to changes that have been made for the 2016 competition from the way things have been done in previous years.  These changes may affect the preparation of your audition, and how early you make your application.


The Legacy of Guido d’Arezzo

Part 2 in a 4-part series


Go to Part 1: The Joy of Solfège

Solfège is a practical method for teaching sight-singing (singing music from written notation).  Each note of the diatonic scale is assigned a solfège syllable.  This practice is called solmization.


The Joy of Solfège

SolfegePart1Part 1 in a 4-part series

Most of the country is still enjoying summer vacation, but here in Nashville the school year begins the first week of August – no lie.  This will be the first fall in many years that I am not starting a new school year as a teacher, although I am still vicariously experiencing it as a parent.  Forgive me if I wax nostalgic.

For all of my teaching career – save for 2008 – 2011 when I ran the piano studio at Nashville School of the Arts and simultaneously directed Music City Youth Orchestra – I was in some part, often for the most part, a singing teacher.  And so it is natural for my thoughts to turn, at this time of year, to the wonders of solfège.  For so many years, the use of this invaluable tool, the practice of this incomparable method was a staple of my daily life.  How many thousands of hours have I spent solfèging songs or vocal parts, or teaching students to do so, or doing it with them?  How could I have done my work without it?  Oh thou noble art. (more…)

Vanderbilt Music & Mind Kickoff

Ingram Hall lobby during a break at the Vanderbilt Music & Mind Kickoff to the Society for Music Perception and Cognition 2015 Conference, August 1, 2015

Ingram Hall lobby during a break at the Vanderbilt Music & Mind Kickoff to the Society for Music Perception and Cognition 2015 Conference, August 1, 2015

This week (August 1-5) Vanderbilt University hosted the biennual Conference of the Society for Music Perception and Cognition.  Many scientists and researchers from around the world descended on Music City to attend the five-day meeting, attending lectures, presentations, symposiums, and other events. The week’s activities are a means for scientists, musicians, and others to share and learn about the many facets of current research in music understanding from a far-flung collection of fields including music theory, psychology, psychophysics, linguistics, neurology, neurophysiology, ethology, ethnomusicology, artificial intelligence, computer technology, physics, and engineering.

On Saturday, August 1, Kelley Bell (Nashville Symphony Education & Community Engagement Program Manager) and I attended the Music & Mind Kickoff event on the opening day of the conference, which was held at Blair School of Music’s Ingram Hall.