Walter Bitner

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About Off The Podium

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Off The Podium

Here on this website is gathered most of my published writing. It primarily concerns music and music education, and the majority of it was written between 2015 – 2019. Much of it was published in music education and music association publications both in print and online: there are many articles aimed at school music teachers that include song resources, techniques, classroom strategies, education philosophy, stories, and more. There are also many articles about music history, including the beginning of a history of the lute – these articles are the most popular and highly visited pages of the website. Most of the content here was written while I was Director of Education & Community Engagement for the Nashville Symphony, and there are also articles about Nashville Symphony programs from that time.

When I moved to Virginia to begin my position at the Richmond Symphony in August 2019, I continued to publish articles for a few months, but the abrupt changes and challenges brought by the arrival of the Covid-19 global pandemic in March 2020 slowed the flow of my writing to trickle. For the past several years when I have been moved to write, it has not often been about music, but rather about more personal topics. I have published a few of these essays on topics of general interest, but much of what I have written since 2020 concerns personal spiritual interests, most of which I have not yet decided to publish.

Walter Bitner

Richmond, Virginia, March 2023

I started to write about music and education soon after I left teaching to work for the Nashville Symphony in 2014. Writing was something I had wanted to do for many years but the daily demands of working in a school environment helped me continue to procrastinate making a start at it. When I left the classroom, I took advantage of my career change to begin to write down reflections on a life in music and music education.

with Music City Youth Orchestra after a performance at Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville, May 22, 2011

with Music City Youth Orchestra after a performance at Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville, May 22, 2011

My blog is called Off The Podium because it literally describes my perspective – I was a school music teacher and youth ensemble director for many years, and now have stepped “off the podium”. This blog provides a format for me to continue to teach and learn, as well as reflect on my experience as a musician outside the classroom or ensemble rehearsal.

I have been a musician since childhood – a singer and multi-instrumentalist, and later a conductor, composer, and arranger – and have performed and studied a wide variety of music from nearly all periods of the Western art music tradition as well as some popular styles (primarily jazz and rock).

My teaching career spans public and private schools in New York, Florida, and Nashville – from Kindergarten through 12th grade – and included a broad array of music education formats including general music, choir, strings, piano, and music theory. I have taught at “alternative” and progressive schools, traditional college preparatory schools, and a public arts magnet high school. I also founded and directed an independent nonprofit youth orchestra for five years and have extensive experience teaching traditional dance and directing plays and musicals with students in grades K-8. I taught private and small ensemble lessons on several instruments during the early years of my teaching career, and later served on leadership committees at the school and district level, as well as on the boards of nonprofit organizations.

Although I do have other interests, here on Off The Podium I try to maintain at least a “wide angle” focus and post only articles related to music and education. Roughly,

  • a third of my posts are about symphony programs (artistic as well as education and community engagement);
  • a third are about music education and relate experiences, ideals, and practical suggestions from a life spent teaching music;
  • and a third reflect my own personal musical interests and preoccupations.

Naturally, there is some blurring of lines between these three broad categories.

As the site evolves it accumulates links related to the categories described above, and also as time allows I have begun to post some recordings of my work over the years here.

Thank you for reading and listening ~

Walter Bitner
November 2015

This year I began – occasionally – writing posts that are not about music or education. These articles can be found in the Off Topic category located on the right side of the menu bar at the top of each page.

WB/December 2016

updated March 29, 2023

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