Walter Bitner

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2018: What Kind of Blog Is This?

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Posing with the philosophers at the British Museum, January 22, 2018 ~ from Three Days in London

Off The Podium Reflections, Statistics, and Top Ten Posts

Here is my annual review of Off The Podium, in which I share some thoughts, highlights, and statistics for 2018. Sometimes this blog is a little all over the place, hence the title.

The past year was turbulent, with a lot of activity for me personally as well as in the department of Education and Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony. Off The Podium continues to provide a great means to share the activities of the department with the world, and to continue to develop my writing on the topics of Music and Education – these features of Off The Podium reach thousands of readers all over the world and have brought me into contact with many musicians and educators I would otherwise have had no opportunity to meet or correspond with.

Thank you everyone for your continued encouragement and support.

This was my fourth year of publishing my writing on Off The Podium. After the first three years of meeting my goal of publishing at the rate of a weekly post, in 2018 my post rate fell significantly: only 27 posts (including this one) in 2018, compared to 53 posts in 2017, and 62 in 2016. There are a lot of reasons for this fall in production, which I won’t go into here, except to say that there is more writing I have done in 2018 that I have not yet published than in previous years.

I continue to try to improve layout and navigation on the site from time to time but the primary impulse behind Off The Podium continues to be to my effort to build an online portfolio of my writing from a variety of approaches within the clearly defined topics of Music and Education.

The Numbers

I began this blog on March 3, 2015 with Leitmotif in Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. Since I published that first article, the website has received more than 151,000 views by nearly 100,000 visitors. Off The Podium passed 150,00 Total Views this month (December 2018).

Total views of webpages at Off The Podium increased by more than 11% in 2018 compared to 2017: with over 39,000 views this year compared to last year’s 34,961. The number of visitors to the site in 2018 increased by a comparable percentage as well. The overwhelming majority of these visits and views are of blog posts.

Considering that I published significantly fewer posts this year than last – about half the number I published in 2017 – these statistics represent an increase in readership. And as we will see, many articles that I published in previous years continue to receive attention.

The blog continues to accomplish what I wished it to, although this year my personal practice of writing on nearly a daily basis faltered a bit compared to previous years. Still, Off The Podium has helped me to collect a growing body of work, and I am now being published regularly elsewhere as well.

Choral Director Magazine continued to publish my column Off The Podium in every issue of 2018 – since I began the column in October 2016, 13 of my articles have now reached over 16,000 print subscribers and thousands more through the magazine’s digital edition. The Off The Podium column in Choral Director 2018 included:

I’m excited that Choral Director has published my entire series of solfège articles – the magazine edition of this series is expanded to five articles from the original four, began in October 2017 with The Joy of Solfège, and concluded in the August/September 2018 issue with Solfège With Amadeus.

My article Roll Over Beethoven: Not Your Grandma’s Symphony Concert was the cover feature for the October 2018 issue of School Band and Orchestra Magazine (this article did not appear on this blog) and my most popular article Wholehearted Attention appeared on the Teaching With Orff website this month.

Off the Podium reaches a broad international audience, with visitors from 135 countries worldwide in 2018.

Readers from outside the USA accounted for nearly 32% of all views in 2018: this is up 11% from 2017. English speaking countries accounted for four of the Top Ten countries by readership this year – Japan nudged Ireland out of the Top Ten in 2018. Readership in the U.K. edged ahead of the Canada this year, Australia ahead of Germany, where Off The Podium continues to be read by more people than in any other non-English-speaking country. All of the other countries on this list were also present in last year’s Top Ten. Italian readership increased this year as well, pushing up to 6th place from 7th in 2017 and 9th in 2016.




Top Ten Posts

In this year’s What Kind of Blog Is This? I will be approaching my annual recount of the most popular posts in a different way from previous years. As my back catalog grows and more people are accessing my writing through internet search engines, articles I posted in previous years have begun to dominate the rankings by number of views. Therefore I am presenting two Top Ten lists this year: Top Ten posts published in 2018, and Top Ten All-time posts.


Top Ten Posts, published in 2018

These are simply the Top Ten Posts calculated by how many times they have been viewed, in order from one to ten. Click on the title to view the post!


1. The Italian Concerto

The Italian Concerto stands alone. Published in 1735 when Sebastian was fifty years old, it is unique among his compositions: a concerto in the Italian style for solo keyboard, without orchestra.




2. The Cards

Like many music teachers, I used a simple ceremony at each Spring Concert to mark this passage to the next phase for my students: this provided the opportunity for every senior graduating from my programs to have a final moment in the spotlight.

3. BACHanalia 2018

My annual rundown of Nashville’s beloved Bach festival – 12 years old in 2018! With full roster and schedule of performances.



4. Diana Poulton

Part of my series The Lute: The English lutenist, teacher, and musicologist Diana Poulton, whose long and fruitful life spanned every decade of the twentieth century, is one of the most important figures in the history of the lute.




5. On The Dark Side of the Moon Part 1

Forty-five years after its release, Pink Floyd‘s monumental The Dark Side of the Moon remains the most important musical document on the human condition in the history of rock music. The first part of a three-part essay.


6. The Lute at the Court of Henry VIII

Part of my series The Lute: Henry VIII reigned for nearly four decades. Through his patronage as well as his personal musicianship, the king and his lavishly rewarded court musicians promoted secular music-making generally –  and the lute specifically – to an unprecedented stature of cultural prominence in England.




7. How Great Is The Pleasure

This lovely eighteenth century canon was a staple of my school choirs’ repertoires throughout my entire teaching career. I believe I taught this to every choir I directed until I left teaching in 2014. I never met a child who did not love to sing this song.

8. My Secret Experiment in Music Education

From 2007-2012 I pursued a secret educational agenda in my work with Music City Youth Orchestra. This was the grand experiment of my teaching career in which I put to the test some of my most deeply held convictions about the value and promise of music education in the lives of children.

9. Curb Concerto Competition Finalists 2018

Who were the finalists in the Nashville Symphony’s annual concerto competition for teens? My annual announcement of the results from this exciting event.


10. Side By Side 2018

Curb Youth Symphony is a collaborative effort between the Nashville Symphony and Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, and the annual Side By Side concert is an important and culminating feature of this program.



Top Ten All-time Posts, 2015 – 2018

Again, these are simply the Top Ten Posts calculated by how many times they have been viewed, in order from one to ten. Click on the title to view the post!


1. Wholehearted Attention

A music education post describing the complexity of musical activity first published on June 12, 2015. It has been featured and linked to from many music education websites and FaceBook pages, was published by NAfME, and by Choral Director Magazine. This is by far my most successful article in terms of readership numbers with over 21,000 views to date on Off The Podium alone – there is no knowing how many thousands more have read it on other sites and in print.

2. Learn Their Names First

This popular music education article emphasizes the importance of learning all of your students’ names immediately before moving on to other activities, and provides a practical method for doing so. This article has accumulated nearly 7,000 views on Off The Podium alone, in addition to its wide readership in national magazines as described above.

3. What Your Students Will Remember

One of the most popular articles to date on Off The Podium with over 5,000 views – a meditation on creating community and positive memories for your students.

4. The Count

The Count is a powerful exercise for focusing the attention of your ensemble in the last moments before a performance. The article includes a brief history of how I used it over the years, and exact instructions for performing it with your own students. This post appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of Choral Director Magazine. More than 5,000 views.

5. The Joy of Solfège

This is the first post in my four-part series on teaching solfège which I published over a month from August-September 2015. This series continues to be popular, and was published in Choral Director Magazine as described above. This article and number 8 below have both remained in the Top Ten for four years now. More than 4,000 views.

playing recorder with Blue Rock School students, 1991

6. How to Teach Recorder Fingerings

Just like it sounds, this is another music education post, which describes the finger numbering system I used when teaching recorder: the same system professional players use. Over 4,000 views, and the fingering chart I included in the post has been downloaded hundreds of times.

7. Four Practices

How I used the Four Practices of Mutual Respect, Attentive Listening, Kindness, and Best Effort to promote healthy social behavior in my classes and ensembles. Highly recommended for anyone interested in developing a community with shared values – simple yet effective! Over 4,000 views.

Part38. Teaching Music With Solfège

This is the nuts and bolts entry in my Solfège series, detailing all syllables and scales for the practical teaching of solfège in the music classroom, regardless of grade level. Over 3,000 views.

9. SHAME Education Poised to Infiltrate U.S. Schools

A satire, but is it? Apparently it is rather dry, as there were a lot of people who read it and appeared to take it at face value from the responses they left on FaceBook. More than 3,000 views.

Photo: Uwe Arens / Sony classical

10. Meet Olga Scheps

Meet the most remarkable pianist of her generation, still practically unknown in the United States. With an overview of her discography, photos, and Youtube links. Over 3,000 views.



Ongoing Series: The Lute

musician angel by Rosso Fiorentino, circa 1520

I started this series in September of 2015 with Meet the Lute  – it now includes 12 articles and 4 appendices: over 28,000 words published so far, and I’m just getting started! The idea behind The Lute is to tell the story of the prince of instruments and how those who played it shaped the course of music history, within the historical context of the times and places they lived in. As time allows I continue to add to it – in 2018 I added 2 articles, and a long appendix in 2 parts:

This year I actually spent a considerable amount of time researching and writing several as yet unpublished articles in this series, which I plan to post in 2019.



Off The Podium is coming up on its four year anniversary in March. I still have many more ideas for topics I wish to write about than I am able to find time to put into words, and it just seems that the more time I am able to spend writing the more ideas come up!

Another aspect of engaging in the process that has been interesting to observe is that while some articles almost “write themselves” (a very short time elapses from when I get the idea to when I finish writing about it – in some cases only a day or two), many, many others take so much longer. In some cases this is because I am trying to research a topic and wish to be thorough, but just as often it’s because I find it difficult to express what I feel clearly about certain topics that are dear to me. My Secret Experiment in Music Education, which I published in November, is a case in point. I had the idea for this article – and the as yet unwritten ones that will follow it – when I started Off The Podium. It has just taken me a long time to feel like I could begin to write about it.

Thank you for reading Off The Podium. If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to my blog by email (there is a sign up button at the top of the sidebar on the right side of this page). I will also feel grateful if you will “like” my blog on FaceBook! (button on the left sidebar) Although I do not invest a tremendous amount of time promoting Off The Podium on social media, I continue to post a link to each article I publish on my FaceBook Page.

Happy New Year!

Walter Bitner
December 31, 2018


  1. Pam Schneller says:

    Congratulations, Walter!

  2. cmbitner says:

    Wow! You continue to amaze and inspire me. Thank you.

  3. […] week, as I compiled my annual review of Off The Podium (2018: What Kind of Blog Is This?) I spent some time reflecting on the range of topics I’ve managed to write about here, not […]

  4. Walter, I have enjoyed so many articles on your blog – but I have barely scratched the surface. Thank you for persevering through so many articles. I look forward to digging deeper.

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