Walter Bitner

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2019: What Kind of Blog Is This?

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Posing with the Boticelli ~ this painting was the star of the exhibit “Life, Love & Marriage Chests in Renaissance Italy” at the Frist Art Museum, Nashville, where I was invited to perform a recital of Italian Renaissance lute masterworks on February 14, 2019. (click images to enlarge)

Off The Podium Reflections, with a few Statistics

My annual review of Off The Podium, in which I share some thoughts, highlights, and statistics from the past year. Sometimes this blog is a little all over the place, hence the title.

This is the fifth year in a row that I have written this summary, and this year’s report will be a little different from the format of previous years. There are fewer lists this year and fewer statistics. This year’s review is more reflective and anecdotal.

2019 brought tremendous change for me and my family. Both of our children graduated (one from high school, one from graduate school), I accepted a new job in a new city, and my wife and I packed everything up, sold our house in Nashville and moved. After nearly sixteen years in Music City, we now reside in Richmond, Virginia, where I serve as Director of Education and Community Engagement for the Richmond Symphony.

Off The Podium continues to provide a great means to share the activities of my work in music education with the world (now at the Richmond Symphony), and to continue to develop my writing on the topics of Music and Education. Off The Podium reaches thousands of readers all over the world. Thank you everyone for your continued encouragement and support!

We’ll get the statistics out of the way, first.

This was my fifth year of publishing my writing on Off The Podium: so far, I have published 230 articles.



I published more articles this year than in 2018 – this was primarily during the first half of the year. I took a complete hiatus from posting for the month of August, when we moved to Richmond and I began my new position here, and I’ve only published nine articles since I resumed in September.

In September I changed some aspects of the site’s organization, including the creation of an archive for articles from 2015 – 2019 relating to my work at the Nashville Symphony, which can be found under the Blog tab in the menu at the top of every page, third from the left. Articles about Richmond Symphony programs can now be found under the Richmond Symphony tab in this menu.

The Numbers

December 31, 2019

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 199,000 views by more than 131,000 visitors.

Off The Podium will pass 200,00 Total Views in the next day or so (check out the counter at the bottom of each page).


Off The Podium views per year/visitors per year 2015 – 2019


Readership is up. This is at least partially due to a marketing strategy I implemented from January – September, systematically promoting two or three articles each week via my FaceBook Page in rotation. It worked! and readership was directly impacted. Off The Podium had more than 47,000 views and more than 31,000 visitors in 2019, more than in any previous year. Alas! I discontinued this marketing strategy in October, when other duties demanded my attention.

Choral Director Magazine continued to publish my column Off The Podium in every issue of 2019. Since I began the column in October 2016, nineteen 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 2019 included:

Also in print this year, my article The Accelerando Overture was featured in the August 2019 issue of School Band and Orchestra Magazine.


Off the Podium reaches a broad international audience, with visitors from 143 countries worldwide in 2019. 64% of views in 2019 were by readers in the United States, and the four countries with the highest number of views are all primarily English-speaking. More than a third (35%) of Off The Podium’s readers in 2019 reside outside the U.S.




The Articles
(article titles in red are links to each corresponding article)

I published less this year about universal topics than local ones than in previous years, and in the ranking of views from 2019, the first twelve articles were all published in previous years.

  1. Wholehearted Attention (2015)
  2. Four Practices (2016)
  3. How to Teach Recorder Fingerings (2015)
  4. Fie, Nay, Prithee John (2017)
  5. Learn Their Names First (2016)
  6. The Count (2016)
  7. What Your Students Will Remember (2017)
  8. The Joy of Solfège (2015)
  9. The Italian Concerto (2018)
  10. Teaching Music With Solfège (2015)
  11. Meet Olga Scheps (2015)
  12. The Medieval Lute (2015)

The top ten posts in this list all had views totaling in the thousands, and the others nearly so. Wholehearted Attention remains my most popular article, with more than 25,000 views to date.

The most popular article I wrote in 2019 (ranked 13th in the above list) was my love letter to Music City, Thank You, Nashville, published on July 1. This was one of the most important things I wrote this year, summarizing my work as a music educator in Nashville in the context of my life there from 2003 – 2019 in a single post.

Articles that reflect on music and music education from 2019 include:

The Continuum
100 Years of Pete Seeger
Inspiration and Music Education
Universal Music Education

The Barbershop Theater marquee by Madeleine Seage

One of the most popular articles I published this year was Unsolicited Advice, originally written as closing address for a music educator’s conference. In a nutshell, it’s a recipe for living a good life, according to yours truly.

Dear to my heart is the two-part The Forest presents Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, the story of how Michael McLemore and I booked a theatre, put together an eight piece band, and performed the 1973 masterpiece for Halloween 2018, published in January.


The Nashville Symphony Accelerando Ensemble, June 3, 2019.


In June I published The Accelerando Overture, which sums up my work with Accelerando 2015-2019. This was a particularly  satisfying article to write.



The Lute

In early 2019 I completed several more chapters in my ongoing project The Lute, a history 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. The Lute is one of the most popular sections of Off The Podium – collectively, the series brought nearly 7,000 views in 2019.

This year I added:


XIII ~ The Golden Age of English Lute Music
XIV ~ “To Attain So Excellent A Science”: John Dowland, Part I
XV ~ “I Desired To Get Beyond The Seas”: John Dowland, Part II
XVII ~ Simone Molinaro


iiic ~ Bach on the Lute: 70 Years of Recordings, Part I
iv ~ John Dowland In His Own Words

The Lute now includes sixteen articles and numerous appendices, and the body of text counts more than 42,000 words. Yet this is only a fraction of what will need to be written to complete the project. The uproar in my personal life and the move to Virginia disrupted my work on The Lute, and I have found myself unable to write about the instrument and its music since April.

September 7, 2019

On the bright side, shortly after we landed in Richmond, I received a beautiful eleven-course baroque lute from Vancouver luthier Grant Tomlinson, which I commissioned from him years ago. I have played renaissance lute since the early 1990s, but this is my first baroque lute. I’ve wanted to explore the seventeenth and eighteenth lute repertoire for decades and am thrilled that I now have such a fine instrument with which to begin.

I hope to at least complete my biography of John Dowland in 2020. I’ve been researching this on and off for close to thirty years now and published the beginning of it in chapters XIV and XV (above) before my writing for The Lute was interrupted.


Richmond Symphony YOP Camerata Strings, Rebecca Jilcott, conductor, rehearses in Carpenter Theatre, December 3, 2019


Richmond Symphony

On August 26 I began to work for the Richmond Symphony, and most of my time since then has been occupied with learning about and producing our many education and community engagement programs. I published articles about several of them on Off The Podium, including:

Three Chopt Festival
Masterclass with Brandie Sutton, October 25
Masterclass with Eduardo Rojas, November 15
Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra Fall Concert, November 17
Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra Program Winter Concert, December 8

These and future articles about my work at the Richmond Symphony may be found in the Richmond Symphony menu tab at the top of every page.



The Working Model

In July, when I was sorting through belongings in Nashville and deciding what to keep and what to let go of, I came across a document I had written in 2006 or 2007 about how things are set up for us: for humans on earth. I found that it still holds true for me, all of it, and I published Walter’s Working Model in September. Much of the little writing I have done since the summer has been along this line of inquiry. I have not published any of it yet.

Finding The Working Model after some twelve or thirteen years made a strong impact on me. In June I had drafted a table of contents for the book on music education I have been contemplating and working towards since I left teaching at the end of 2014, and I found that I have already written some 75% of the content already. Most of it has already been published here, on Off The Podium. Most of what is missing – currently unwritten – is the philosophical underpinning for what I wish to express about the promise and value of music education in the lives of children. The Working Model provided me with a sound foundation upon which to lay the groundwork for this philosophy.

I’ve spoken to many of my friends and colleagues about this over the years, and probably those who are familiar with my writing here will be unsurprised as well. Popular articles like Wholehearted Attention, Four Practices, What Your Students Will Remember, Universal Music Education, and many others found here on Off The Podium point towards or express component ideas that are part of the larger philosophy I hope to articulate. Music Education is much more than a way to help children strive for excellence or find something to belong to that keeps them out of trouble. It is a vital means without parallel for helping children develop individuality, self awareness, consciousness, and ultimately, conscience.


Walter Bitner
December 31, 2019
Richmond, Virginia


December 31, 2019

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